Do your hamstrings still feel tight after tons of stretching? Do you feel odd twinges or zaps of pain down your arm? Does your pain feel deep and vague? If you answered yes to any of these questions your symptoms may be caused by something called neural tension or altered neurodynamics.
Neurodynamics looks at the length, health and sensitivity of the nerve. The nervous system slides, glides, and moves as we do, but its mechanics can be altered due to a number of factors, such as constricting scar tissue, tight muscles, or swelling around the nerve. If the nerve cannot move freely than you may feel symptoms such as pain, tingling, burning, achiness, or tightness anywhere along the length of that nerve. A common example is altered neural tension in the sciatic nerve, which can cause symptoms right down your leg. The cause can be anything from tight piriformis muscles, scar tissue around an old hamstring strain or poor posture from sitting at a desk job for years.
How can you tell if your symptoms are related to the nervous system? There are tests that your therapist can do to assess the neurodynamics of the nerve. During the test your therapist will look for reproduction of your symptoms and abnormal resistance or tightness. If the neurodynamics are affected, there are a number of treatment options, from manual therapy techniques to home exercises.
Home exercise usually consists of what is called nerve flossing exercises. Nerves don’t like to be stretched, so the flossing technique helps get the nerve sliding and gliding through surrounding tissue without aggravating it.
There are also manual therapy techniques that your therapist may do to help free up the nerve and improve blood flow to the area. The good news, the treatment for neural tension is usually pain free, non-invasive and effective.
If you’ve been stretching forever and still feel tight or have bizarre pain that seems to jump around and not get better with conventional therapy, you may want to ask one of the Sheddon therapists about neural tension testing and flossing exercises for your injury.