We all know that muscle tension can lead to muscle pain and, in some cases, muscle strain. Did you know, however, that nerves can also become tight and immobile? Have you ever experienced unusual symptoms such as numbness or tingling in your arms or legs? Many musculoskeletal conditions are frequently accompanied by neurological symptoms including numbness, tingling, and weakness. Many people with musculoskeletal pain often begin addressing the issue with muscular mobilization and release techniques including stretching and foam rolling. These are helpful techniques to reduce muscular tightness and spasm that may contribute to musculoskeletal pain. However, additional neural mobilization techniques can and often should be performed to restore functional mobility of surrounding neural pathways.
What is neural mobilization? Neural mobilization facilitates movement between neural structures and their surroundings through manual techniques or exercise. Multiple research studies have been performed to determine the effectiveness of neural mobilization for musculoskeletal conditions. Research has shown significant improvements in nerve-related lower back, neck, and arm pain through incorporation of neural mobilization techniques. Neural mobilization can be performed for the upper and lower extremities, according to the area of pain and dysfunction. Neuromusculoskeletal assessment should be performed by your physical therapist to determine specific neural pathways that may be affected.
A commonly affected nerve that is often compromised in individuals with lower back and hip pain is the sciatic nerve. Sciatic nerve entrapment or irritation may often present as pain, numbness, tingling, and/or electric shock-like sensations down the back of the leg. These symptoms are often present in conditions such as lumbar disc bulge or herniation, sacroiliac joint dysfunction, and piriformis syndrome. The sciatic nerve can be mobilized to restore normal function and reduce neural compression or compromise. It is ideal, however, to perform sciatic nerve mobilization in conjunction with other manual therapy techniques including stretching, muscle release techniques, and joint mobilization. Evaluation and treatment of musculoskeletal and neuromuscular conditions involving nerve-related symptoms should be performed prior to initiating nerve mobilization techniques. For an example of sciatic nerve mobilization, see the link below: