If you’ve ever had a pinched nerve, you know how painful it can be. No matter where you’re feeling the pinch, you can get quick relief with these easy exercises.
The term “pinched nerve” refers to damage or injury of a nerve or set of nerves, resulting from compression, constriction, or stretching. A pinched nerve can occur just about anywhere in the body, the most common places being your neck, back, elbow, and hips. Signs of a pinched nerve range from a radiating pain, to a burning sensation, to numbness, to “pins and needles” tingling. (1)
Incorporating the proper exercises and stretches into your daily routine can be extremely beneficial in relieving pain by strengthening the muscles around the nerve, improving flexibility and increasing circulation to the area.
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Each exercise can be used three times a day. Remember to always listen to your body and if you have a previous or current injury, talk to your doctor before beginning a new exercise regimen.
For a Pinched Nerve in the Neck
Neck Rolls | 10 reps
Doing simple neck rolls helps to decrease tightness while improving mobility.
- Begin standing or sitting. Look straight ahead and relax your shoulders down your back.
- Tilt your right ear down towards your right shoulder. Then, roll your chin down towards your chest and all the way up until your left ear is over your left shoulder.
- Roll your chin back down to your chest and then all the way up to the right. Continue rolling side-to-side 10 times.
Posterior Translation | 10 reps, 3X
This exercise will help correct nerve pressure by correcting your posture and stabilizing the neck area. You’ll need a small towel for this exercise.
- Take the ends of a rolled up towel into each hand. Lift your arms up and place the center of the towel behind your head.
- Move your head straight back into the towel like you’re tucking in your chin. Keep resistance against your head with the towel. This should bring your head back into its correct position over your shoulders.
- Hold for 2-3 seconds, then bring your head back to the starting position.
- Repeat for 10 reps, then take a break. Do three sets of this.
Seated Spinal Twist | 20 sec per side, 3X
This stretch helps to release tightness around the spine, relieving pinched nerve pain in the upper back.
- Start by sitting on the floor with your legs stretched out in front of you.
- Bend your right leg and cross it over your left to place the foot outside of your left thigh. Sit up tall.
- On an exhale, twist your upper body to the right, wrapping your left forearm around your right shin as your twist.
- Hold for 20 seconds, then inhale to unwind. Switch to the other side. Repeat for three sets.
For a Pinched Nerve in the Shoulders
Corner Stretch | 20 sec, 3X
This exercise stretches the pecs to relieve pressure on the brachial plexus.
- Stand facing a corner and stagger your feet slightly.
- Bend your elbows and raise your arms to shoulder-height. Place one forearm on each wall.
- Slowly lean your body in toward the corner until you feel a nice stretch along the front of your chest.
- Hold for 20 seconds and then back away from the wall. Repeat three times.
Wall Angels | 10 reps, 3X
Use a wall in this exercise to increase strength in the muscles between your shoulder blades, which helps to reduce nerve pinching.
- Stand up straight with your back against a wall and feet hip-width distance apart.
- Bend your elbows to 90 degrees and raise your arms to shoulder-height. Place the back of your elbows, forearms, and wrists against the wall. Make sure to keep your back against the wall the entire time.
- Slowly slide your arms up the wall several inches, then back down to the starting position. Repeat for 10 reps, then take a rest. Repeat for three sets.
For a Pinched Nerve in the Elbow
Ulnar Nerve Flossing | 10 reps
This exercise helps to lengthen out the nerve and release it from any surrounding tissues that may be compressing it.
- Bend the affected arm at shoulder level, with the palm facing you.
- Use the opposite hand to grab ahold of the ring and pinky fingers of the affected arm.
- Slowly straighten the arm out and flex the palm so it is facing out. Use the opposite hand to flex the ring and pinky fingers back and down. Then, look down, bringing your chin to your chest.
- Lift your head and bend the elbow to come back up to start. Repeat 10 times.
Head Tilt | 5 reps
Simply tilting your head in this manner can lengthen and remove compression from the ulnar nerve.
- Sit tall and reach the affected arm out to the side with the elbow straight and the arm level with your shoulder. Turn your palm to face up toward the ceiling.
- Slowly, tilt your head away from your hand until you feel a stretch. To increase the stretch, extend your fingers toward the floor.
- Return to the starting position and slowly repeat five times.
For a Pinched Nerve in the Lower Back to the Legs
Slight Back Bend | 3 sec, 5X
This stretch helps to relieve the pain of a pinched nerve in your lower back.
- Begin standing with your feet hip-width distance.
- Place your hands on your lower back with your fingers pointing down and squeeze your shoulder blades together. Draw your navel up and in towards your spine to engage your abs.
- Push your hands down against your lower back as you arch your back slightly and lift your chest towards the sky. Hold for three seconds, then use your abs to straighten your spine. Repeat five times.
Supine Figure 4 | 30 sec per side, 3X
This stretch releases tightness of the piriformis and glutes to relieve compression of the sciatic nerve.
- Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet on the floor.
- Cross your right ankle over your left thigh and flex your feet.
- Pick your left foot up and thread your left arm between your legs. Interlace your fingers behind your left thigh and hug the leg in towards your chest. You should feel a stretch on the outside of the right hip and thigh.
- Hold for 30 seconds, then switch sides. Repeat for three sets.
Sciatic Nerve Flossing | 10 reps, 2X
When the sciatic nerve gets trapped, scar tissue can build up along the nerve fiber. This stretch lengthens pinched nerves while also breaking down scar tissue.
- Begin sitting up nice and straight in a chair, with both knees bent and your feet on the floor.
- Straighten out the leg with pain. At the same time, look up. Hold for five seconds, then return your leg to the starting position and look down. Hold for five seconds.
- Repeat lifting up and down 10 times. Repeat for two sets.
Note: The breakdown of scar tissue can be painful. You may feel a gentle tugging sensation through the back of the thigh, but once you feel pain, stop. You can repeat on both legs, but it is only necessary to repeat on the other side if you are or have experienced sciatic pain in both legs.
For a Pinched Nerve in the Inner Thigh
Hip Flexor Stretch | 30 sec per side, 3X
This exercise stretches out the hip flexor to relieve compression and pain.
- Begin kneeling down on the affected leg and place the other foot in front of you with the knee stacked over the ankle. Walk your hands up onto your thigh and lift your chest. Engage your abs.
- Press your hips down and forward to feel a stretch in the groin and the hip flexor of the affected leg.
- Hold for 30 seconds, then release and switch sides. Repeat for three sets.
Femoral Nerve Flossing | 5 reps, 3X
This stretch lengthens out and relieves compression of the sciatic nerve.
- Start lying on your belly and prop yourself up on your forearms to lift your chest off the ground. Your legs should be straight back behind you.
- Bend the knee of the affected leg to curl the heel towards your butt. Try to lift the top of your thigh off the mat. At the same time, tilt your chin and look up.
- Hold for a count of three, then slowly release your leg and chin back down. Repeat for 5 reps. Perform three sets.
(Your Next Workout: 9 Seated Stretches to Release Neck and Back Pain)