Spinal Flossing: Improving Hip Mobility & Relieving Sciatic Nerve Pain
By Stephen Brandis, CSCS
Now before you stop reading because you saw the word “flossing” in the title and assume you will be taking a trip to the dentists office I would just like to say it is not the case in this instance. Instead, spinal flossing is something you can do at home, work, or at the gym as part of your warm-up. What makes this even better is it is incredibly easy to perform and takes no time at all so there is no excuse not to give it a try and reap some of the benefits, especially in those who suffer from sciatic nerve pain and poor range of motion in the hips.
The sciatic nerve originates at the spinal cord in the lower back and branches through the hips, butt, and down each leg. Sciatic nerve pain can be described as feeling a numbness, a pinch, or a twinge in these areas. This can be felt when walking, standing, exercising, or if you are sitting for extended periods of time. So what causes this pain and discomfort? A slipped disc in some cases which compresses the nerve, but in most cases it is caused by poor tissue quality surrounding the nerve in the form of scar tissue or adhesions. When this happens, instead of the nerve gently gliding over muscle and the neural sheath as it travels through the body, it gets caught or trapped in an adhesion. This can cut off the nerves blood supply causing numbness, or if the nerve sheath is more severely scarred, actual pain can occur which can be fairly intense in some cases.
Fortunately, this compression and poor tissue quality surrounding the nerve can be alleviated in most individuals with neural/spinal flossing. These movements help develop space between vertebrae and nerves, loosens the muscles of the hips and lower back increasing mobility, and helps break up scar tissue and adhesions. Below are videos of four movements you can perform; the cat/camel, yoga twist, side twist, and bent knee twist. These movements are not stretches so do not try to force range of motion. Think of it as gently moving back and forth between two movements. Excellent modeling by Kortney and Smiley as well!
The Cat/Camel may feel like a pointless movement but it is a great way to improve spacing of the vertebrae in the lumbar region. Perform 12 repetitions.
Yoga twists emphasis side to side hip mobility. Focus on fluid motion and gently twisting the hips. Perform 8 repetitions per side.
This movement may feel a little awkward but is great for dissociating the hips from the lumbar spine. Don’t force the range of motion, gently role back and forth between the start and finish position. Perform 8 repetitions on each side.
Bent Knee Side Twist:
The bent knee twist is a type of flossing movement but it does not allow for the same type of flossing as the previous three. However, it is still a great movement to perform to loosen up the lumbar and thoracic spine. Perform 8 repetitions on each side.
If your lower back or hips are feeling tight or are experiencing pain or discomfort, neural flossing is a great active approach to correcting this issue. So before you start investing time and money into visits to the chiropractor or doctors office, give these movements a try in your warm up before you exercise, at home, or at work, and see if you notice any improvements in your symptoms and hip mobility after a few weeks.