You might not think of our nerves as needing some “wiggle room,” but they do. And when they don’t have that wiggle room, we can definitely feel it.
Our peripheral nerves—like those found in our feet and ankles—are wrapped in “sheaths” of myelin and connective tissue. These sheaths provide protection and insulation to our nerve fibers, which are able to slide with some freedom through them. You can think of these sheaths a bit like the sleeves of a coat, except your nerves never actually leave the sheaths.
A nerve is normally able to slide within a sheath with very little restriction. However, certain conditions can cause a nerve to lose this mobility. When it does, it can cause the nerve to become compressed, leading to discomfort. In particular, there can be sharp or burning pain during motions when the nerve would normally slide but no longer can.
There are many ways a nerve can become injured enough to lose its mobility. These can include:
- Any sort of direct trauma to a nerve, such as sustained from a car accident or crush injury.
- Repetitive motions, such as the impacts of long-distance running over time.
- Consequences from surgery.
That last one might come as a bit of a surprise. Isn’t surgery supposed to lead to better outcomes? Of course it is, but sometimes an unexpected problem can occur. Sometimes, scar tissue can develop around a nerve, restricting its motion and causing pain just like the other two situations noted above.
So, whenever we have a patient with nerve pain, we want to help ensure the nerves are able to move as freely as possible. And during those times when we need to perform surgery, we want to help prevent nerves from becoming “stuck” in scar tissue or other obstructions as a consequence.
When we have such concerns, we may turn to a method known as “neurogliding” to increase nerve mobility.
What is Neurogliding, and When Might We Use It?
Neurogliding has a few different names. You might also hear it called “nerve gliding” or “nerve flossing,” although the last term has nothing to do with that dance move kids love to do.
Any form of the term is meant to describe types of stretching and exercise that can help nerves regain mobility and slide better through their sheaths.
You can consider neurogliding a form of physical therapy. In fact, when we recommend physical therapy as a form of treatment or recovery, we may specifically search out a specialist who specializes in it, when needed.
There are multiple types of exercises that can be employed depending on the specific location and nerves in need. Most all of them follow the same general concept, however: gently stretching the nerve, then contracting it to make it “glide” within the tunnel of its sheath.
It’s a relatively simple goal, but one that can have important impacts on comfort and mobility, nonetheless.
Neurogliding can have positive effects for patients both before and after a surgical procedure.
Before a surgery (and even for some patients who may not require surgery at all), neurogliding stretches and exercises can help relieve current pain and improve nerve function. Incorporating them into your daily routine can be an easy part of many treatment plans.
However, the importance of neurogliding also shows prevalently for patients who are recovering from surgery.
Nerves can be particularly vulnerable during post-op healing. This is the time during which scar tissue can form around a nerve, essentially trapping it within a tunnel.
There is unfortunately little that can often be done during the surgery itself to prevent buildup of scar tissue, and it can be a huge frustration to recover from surgery for one problem only for another to develop. That is why we wish to do everything within our capabilities during post-op to prevent such complications from happening.
Neurogliding techniques will help keep nerves moving naturally during post-op recovery. This can help prevent any buildup of scar tissue from trapping nerves in position, much like wiggling a post in drying cement can keep it from becoming stuck fast.
We Provide Guidance for Best Outcomes
At Parker Foot & Ankle, we treat all nerve-related conditions with utmost care and respect for the patient. We want the best possible outcome for your problem, and will recommend a plan that best works with your individual needs.
If that plan includes neurogliding, we will fully discuss the benefits with you and, if needed, recommend a physical therapist who can best guide you through these exercises and other parts of treatment/recovery.
If other forms of treatment may help—such as custom orthotics to take excess pressure off sensitive areas, Neurogenx treatments, or laser treatments, we may recommend those, too. Nerve problems can be complicated conditions, and the most effective plan for treatment may involve approaches from multiple angles. Our Neuropathy Care Center, however, is dedicated to results!
Do not let potential nerve problems persist! The longer you go without addressing them, the worse and more chronic they may become. Call our Houston office at (281) 497-2850 to schedule an appointment. Or, if you prefer to contact us electronically, fill out our online form and a member of our staff will reach out to you during office hours.