Nerve Gliding Exercises for Shoulder: Ultimate Guide

Often, Shoulder pain and discomfort are trapped or pinched nerves around the neck and shoulder area. This pain causes physical discomfort and may affect your posture and overall mobility. Nerve gliding exercises for shoulder, also known as neural gliding or nerve flossing are a gentle, effective way to address these issues.

What Are Nerve Gliding Exercises?

Nerve gliding exercises for shoulder are gentle stretches or movements designed to relieve nerve tension, provide pain relief, and improve mobility in the affected area. These gentle exercises are crucial for managing conditions like radial neuropathy, cubital tunnel syndrome, and carpal tunnel syndrome. 

They aim to mobilize different nerves, or bundle of nerves (like brachial plexus) that have become immobile or stuck due to adhesions or inflammation along their pathway, such as the ulnar and radial nerve.

The Role of Nerve Gliding Exercises

Nerve gliding exercises play a crucial role in maintaining shoulder fitness and mobility. These simple exercises are beneficial in the conservative treatment of various nerve related conditions and can be a part of a physical therapy routine. 

Combined with other therapies, nerve gliding exercises can significantly enhance the range of motion and reduce discomfort caused by nerve tension. Further allowing free movement of the nerve.

Specific Nerve Gliding Exercises

  • Head Turn: This simple nerve gliding exercises involves straightening your neck and head and then turning your head first to the right and then to the left, holding each position for about 10 seconds. This exercise can be especially beneficial if you have a pinched nerve in your shoulder.
  • Shoulder Roll: This exercise involves pulling your shoulders up and then rolling your shoulder blades down and back, repeating about five times. It’s essential to be cautious as this exercise significantly strains the shoulders.
  • Chin Tuck: This exercise, Aimed at strengthening base of the neck, involves putting your hands on your chin, pulling your chin down slowly to form a “double chin,” and holding this position for five seconds. It’s effective for improving poor posture.
  • Median Nerve Gliding: For thoracic outlet syndrome, this exercise requires standing upright with the symptomatic arm out to the side, elbow bent at 90 degrees, and palm flat. Tilt the head towards the nonsymptomatic side, then towards the symptomatic side while straightening the elbow, repeated ten times
  • Doorway Stretch: This stretch aims to stretch the chest and shoulder muscles. Stand in a doorway, arms at shoulder height on the frame, and step forward with one foot until you feel a stretch across your chest and shoulders. Hold this stretch for 20 to 30 seconds.
  • Middle Scalene Stretch: This simple nerve stretch releases the scalene muscle in the neck. It involves using one hand to pull your head to one side as if bringing your ear to your shoulder and holding the stretch for 30 seconds.
  • Nerve flossing Exercise: This neural gliding slow movement targets the neck, shoulders, arms, and wrist nerves. Step-by-Step Exercise Instructions Below.
  • Prone Y’s: This upper limbs nerve gliding exercises is performed by raising the arms to a 45-degree angle for scapular stabilization and upper back strengthening, making a ‘Y’ with your body. Prone Y is beneficial for shoulder blade stabilization.
  • Chin Tucks: This exercise activates and strengthens the deep cervical muscles and trapezius muscles. It involves tucking the chin in and retracting the head backward, holding the position for 3 to 5 seconds, and aiming for 2 to 3 sets of 10 repetitions.

Addressing Specific Conditions

back closeup view of a woman holding her shoulder. shes's in pain. she is performing nerve gliding exercises shoulder
Nerve Gliding Exercises can Reduce Discomfort
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: For issues like carpal tunnel syndrome, specific nerve glides, such as the median nerve glide, can be particularly beneficial.
  • Cubital Tunnel Syndrome: Exercises focusing on the ulnar nerve glide can help alleviate symptoms of cubital tunnel syndrome.
  • Sciatic Nerve Pain: Sciatic nerve flossing can be a part of the regimen for managing sciatic nerve pain.
  • Thoracic Outlet Syndrome: Exercises like the Median Nerve Gliding and Doorway Stretch are beneficial for managing symptoms

Incorporating Nerve Flossing into Your Routine - Step By Step Guide

Nerve flossing or neural flossing is a specific nerve gliding exercise that can be particularly beneficial for those suffering from nerve tightness related discomfort or neural tension in the shoulder area. Here is a step-by-step guide to an essential nerve flossing exercise:

Start in a Seated Position: Sit comfortably. Arms stretched out to the each side to a T position.

First Movement Left Side

  • Look to your left.
  • Pull your left fingers downwards.
  • Bring your right fingers up to your right shoulder.

Switch to the Right Side

  • Turn your head to the right.
  • Pull your right fingers down.
  • Move your left hand to your left shoulder.

Alternate Sides

  • Gently alternate between the left and right sides.
  • Perform the movements slowly for effectiveness.


  • This exercise mobilizes neck, shoulders, arms, and wrist nerves.
  • It’s beneficial for addressing issues where nerves have become stuck.

Repeat as Necessary: You can perform these steps multiple times as part of your nerve health and mobility routine.

Include nerve gliding exercises in your daily routine can be a simple yet effective way to maintain nerve health and alleviate discomfort associated with conditions like carpal tunnel syndrome and cubital tunnel syndrome.

Best Practices and Precautions

While performing nerve gliding exercises, it’s crucial to adopt a cautious approach:

  • Consult Healthcare Professionals: Before starting any new exercise regimen, especially if you have a history of nerve or shoulder issues, consult or get a physical exam from a healthcare professional or physical therapist.
  • Gentle Movements: Perform all nerve gliding exercises with slow, gentle movements to avoid exacerbating existing conditions.
  • Pay Attention to Pain: Stop immediately if any exercise increases pain or discomfort. Pain could indicate that the exercise is unsuitable for your specific condition.
  • Regular Practice: Consistency is vital. Regularly practicing these nerve gldiing exercises can lead to better results over time.
  • Good Posture: Maintain good posture while performing these nerve gliding exercises. Posture ensures the effectiveness of the exercise and reduces the risk of injury.
  • Listen to Your Body: Everyone’s body is different, so pay attention to how your body responds during and after the exercises.
  • Combination with Other Therapies: Nerve gliding exercises are often most effective when combined with other therapies such as physical therapy, massage therapy, or specific medical treatments for underlying conditions.

By adhering to these best practices and precautions, you can safely incorporate nerve gliding exercises into your routine for improved shoulder and nerve health.

Sources: Wikipedia

Scroll to Top
Welcome to the Yinside

Three Free
Yin Yoga Class Recordings

Hosted by Bernie Clark

Michelle Burks creating free yoga videos for clients

Grab Your Free Morning Yoga Videos