Following on from Andrew’s last article on joint laxity, I expect many of you would have felt that touching your toes was impossible due to the pull in your hamstrings. But was it your hamstrings…?
Just like muscles get placed on stretch during certain movements, so too do your nerves. Very often, what we perceive to be the “muscle” pulling tight during a stretch, is often the nerve being stretched or “tensioned”. The ability of your nerve to tension to its normal length is referred to as Neural Mobility. A trained Physio will often test your neural mobility to detect if your symptoms are due to reduced movement/tension of the nerve.
Now before you do this next quick test, PLEASE READ CAREFULLY: If you have back or posterior thigh pain (or both) at present then avoid this test as it may flare up your symptoms. Rather go see a trained Physio who can assess the appropriateness of this test for you.
The SLUMP TEST
1) Begin by sitting on the edge of a desk or chair with your thigh fully supported by the desk/chair (FIG 1.1).
2) Place your hands behind your back, sit badly (get your shoulders down towards your hips, thus curving your upper back) and drop your chin to your chest by flexing your neck (FIG 1.2) *At this point, if you already feel lower back or posterior thigh pain, then STOP. That would be considered a positive test and you definitely have NEURAL TENSION**
3) With your neck still flexed, try straightening your ONE knee until you feel the tension/pain in your posterior thigh develop (FIG 1.3).
4) Now bring your toes up towards your head, by moving your ankle (FIG 1.4)
5) Keeping your knee, ankle and back in that position, look up at the ceiling (i.e. ONLY move your neck backwards- FIG 1.5)
6) What happened?
If the tension/pain at the back of your thigh got better when you looked up, that would indicate you do have NEURAL TENSION. Think about it, we didn’t move your leg, so if the tension/pain got better, it could only be related to something else-your nerve.
If there was no change to the symptoms with the neck movement, then your hamstring is most likely the culprit.
Now try it with the other leg. There could be a side to side difference.
So you had a positive test and have neural tension, now what? Its advisable to go see your Physio at this point so he/she can assess the extent of your symptoms and advise an appropriate stretching program. One exercise we at PhysioPRO recommend to try “lengthen” or loosen up the nerve is neural flossing/sliding. We use a similar setup as above, however, we don’t “tension” the nerve, but rather “floss” the nerve.
So start as per steps 1 and 2 (see image below)
Then, as you straighten your leg (step 3), SIMULTANEOUSLY extend your neck (step 5).
Do 10-15 repetitions per side, 2-3 times per day. This “flossing” technique has been proved to result in the greatest tensioning of the sciatic nerve in recent research, and is an effective tool at improving your neural mobility.
Once you have done your flossing, try stand and touch your toes again. If you had neural tension, you should notice a significant improvement now…
BY: Riccardo Vaccaro
Back injuries, General Health/Fitness, Lower Limb injuries