WHAT ARE NEURODYNAMICS?
Neurodynamics refers to the ability of your body’s nerves to move, slide or glide; basically, your nerves have a finite length, just like a muscle, tendon or piece of string. And like a muscle, tendon or piece of string, nerves have an ideal length; that is, if they are too short, you will likely feel some symptoms, likely pain, pins and needles, numbness, burning or other similar sensations. Even if the actual length of your nerves is just fine, they can still be compromised in one way or another. I like to imagine the nerve as an electrical cable, residing inside a conduit or sheath. Just as a cable is protected and directed by its conduit, so is the nerve by its nerve sheath. What happens though, if the electrical cable becomes tangled, or if the conduit is compressed by someone stepping on it, or damaged by somebody being careless with a tool? The cable can become compromised, damaged and may not work correctly. The same thing can happen with our nerves; replace the clumsy person stepping on the cable with a tight muscle, or a stiff joint, and the power tool with a traumatic injury (maybe a fall or car accident), and there you have it, nerve symptoms.
HOW ARE THEY USED?
Your physiotherapist may have reason to suspect that your nerves are compromised (colloquially, you may use the term ‘pinched’, but compromised is definitely more accurate and friendly!), and as such, may conduct some neurodynamic testing. This is when they put your arm or leg in a certain position, bending it this way and that, and ask you if you feel pain, tightness or tingling when they move your wrist or foot in a certain way. A ‘positive’ sign here is feeling any symptoms, and this indicates abnormal nerve tension, and could be related to at least some of your current symptoms.
HOW DO THEY WORK?
Just as jiggling an electrical cable can loosen it from its tangle, so can performing neurodynamic ‘sliders’, ‘gliders’ or ‘tensioners’, either by your physio during a consult, or by yourself at home as part of your exercise program, loosen your nerves from whatever is compromising them. Your physio will test, diagnose, and teach the necessary moves to you, to help you on your way.
So this is one time when you actually might want your physio to get on your nerves! Although, I swear if I hear Mat (fun-loving and very literal LifeForce physio) say he’s going “by bus” one more time… Those of you lucky enough to be one of Mat’s patients or in a treatment room next to him every day will know just what I’m talking about! But we wouldn’t have him any other way!