The brachial plexus is a complicated network of nerves that originates from the spinal nerves in the lower neck to innervate the arm, shoulder, upper back and hand. The nerves travel under bones and through muscles, making them susceptible to compression and injury to the actual nerves and the structures nearby. Scar tissue can cause the nerves to stick and inhibit them from gliding freely, and simple exercises can restore proper movement.
Nerve gliding exercises are similar to stretching, but the goal is to restore motion throughout the length of the nerve instead of feeling a stretch in the muscle. Each exercise will have a starting and ending position and may have multiple steps to slowly mobilize the nerve without causing injury. It is important to do each step accurately without skipping positions; otherwise, the nerve will not move through its full range of motion. Although the goal is to increase mobility, do not force any motions that increase pain or aggravate symptoms.
Upper Brachial Plexus
Begin standing looking straight ahead with your arm bent at the elbow and palm facing the ceiling so that the wrist and the fingers are extended. While keeping your arm in the same position, gradually side bend your head away from the arm. Hold the position 15 seconds and repeat the movement three to five times.
Lower Brachial Plexus
Stand in a neutral posture looking straight ahead with your arm hanging at your side. Elevate the shoulder by bringing the top of the shoulder toward the ear and then side bend your head away from the shoulder. Hold the position 15 seconds and repeat the movement three to five times.
Bend the fingers, wrist and elbow while standing with neutral posture. Slowly side bend your head away from the arm and then straighten the elbow, keeping your fingers and wrist bent. After reaching that position, extend your shoulder so your arm is behind you. Hold the position 15 seconds and repeat the movement three to five times.
Stand in neutral posture with your elbow straight and the wrist and fingers bent. Your wrist and fingers will stay in the bent position while you bring your shoulder into extension and side bend your head away from the arm. Keep your shoulder down, not allowing your shoulder to move up toward your ear. Hold the position 15 seconds and repeat the movement three to five times.
With your head looking straight ahead, bend your elbow and keep your palm open and pointing toward the ceiling with your fingers and wrist extended. Turn you palm down toward the ground, allowing your wrist to bend, and close your fingers to make a fist. Hold the position 15 seconds and repeat the movement three to five times.