preview for Try These Stretches If You Have a Pinched Nerve | Men’s Health Muscle

IF YOU’RE ONE of the many people who has dealt with a pinched nerve, you know how annoying the symptoms can be, especially if you’re trying to maintain a fitness regimen.

Weakness and numbness in the fingers can make it difficult to do just about anything. Pain can radiate through the neck, upper back, and arms, making desk work or more engaged labor and activity tortuous. Even without factoring in the discomfort, this pain can make strength training with any type of weight borderline impossible, since holding any weight can be difficult.

Pinched nerves can happen anywhere in the body. But here, physical therapist Philip Tam, PT, DPT of Bespoke Treatments takes us through some stretches to release one of the most common types of pinched nerve, in the neck.

What Is a Pinched Nerve?

A pinched nerve is exactly what it sounds like. A nerve is being pressured by surrounding tissue and thus, loses some circulation. This pressure can be caused by the surrounding muscles, cartilage, or bones, depending on the location of the pinch.

When this pressure accumulates, the neurons inside our nerves lose a bit of their route of conduction, causing symptoms like numbness, weakness, pain, and tingling.

What Causes a Pinched Nerve in the Neck?

Tam is specifically addressing cervical radiculopathy, one of the most common causes of a pinched nerve in your neck. He explains that the cervical spine is the portion of your spine that make up your neck. This consists of seven vertebrae, or spinal bones, and is responsible for the support and movement of your skull. It also houses most of the nerves as they spread from the brain down to the rest of the body.

Herniations of these disks and sore muscles in the neck and arms, among other things, can cause the vertebrae to put pressure on the nerves, which in turn results in the numbness and tingling that is most associated with a pinched nerve in the neck.

Tam breaks down these four stretches for the neck and arms to relieve that tension.

4 Stretches for Pinched Nerves

Chin Tuck

This move is simple but effective, helping lift compression off the nerve root. It will help strengthen the muscles on the front of your neck, known as the deep cervical muscles, as well as stretch out the muscles on the back of the neck.

How to Do It:

  • Stand up nice and straight, keeping the shoulders down and back.
  • Keep the eyes lifted and looking forward.
  • Tuck the chin down and back, as if you’re avoiding an unwanted kiss.
  • Hold for 3 seconds and return to normal. Aim for 3 sets of 10 to 12 reps.

Levator Scapula Stretch

Your levator scapula muscle attaches at both the neck and the shoulder, and tightness in it can be a common cause of nerve pinches that moves pain down the arm. This will help stretch out that muscle and open up some of the joint space in the cervical spine. Be sure to only go to where the stretch is comfortable.

How to Do It:

  • Stand up nice and straight, keeping the shoulders down and back.
  • Lift the arm to 90 degrees with a bend in the elbows.
  • Look down at the armpit.
  • Take that same arm, and grab the back of the head.
  • Hold the stretch for 20 seconds, repeating 3 times on each side.

Median Nerve Floss

The median nerve is one of the largest nerves that run down your arm. It is the unfortunate victim in many nerve pinch cases. This move helps mobilize that nerve to get it firing correctly again.

How to Do It:

  • Stand up nice and straight, keeping the shoulders down and back.
  • Lift the shoulder to create a 90 degree angle.
  • Extend the whole arm out to the side, slowly opening up the elbow before moving to the wrist.
  • Feel the stretch through the palm of the hand.
  • If this feels comfortable, you can add in a tilt of the head in the opposite direction to open up the neck.
  • Start off with 2 sets of 8-10 reps on each side. If it feels better by the second round, feel free to add in a third set.

Quadruped Cat Cow

If your main symptoms include neck pain or mid-back pain, this one is for you. It will restore movement into the neck and upper back.

How to Do It:

  • Start on your hands and knees, and sink the hips back into the heels to take the lower back out of the equation.
  • Round out the back and bring your chin into the chest.
  • Arch the back and extend the neck up.
  • Alternate these two positions, and aim for 10 reps for 3 sets.

Especially when it comes to dealing with pinched nerves, make sure that you only go to where you are comfortable with these movements. If any tingling, burning, or sensations of numbness increase, stop what you are doing and find the help of your physician or a physical therapist.

For more advice from physical therapists to help you move and feel better, check out all of our guides in The Fix series.

Headshot of Cori Ritchey

Cori Ritchey

Cori Ritchey, NASM-CPT is an Associate Health & Fitness Editor at Men’s Health and a certified personal trainer and group fitness instructor. You can find more of her work in HealthCentral, Livestrong, Self, and others.

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