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Upper Extremity Nerves

Hey, it’s Jennifer here to talk to you today about nerve tension in your neck, shoulder, and down the arm, and how a lot of people might think they have a shoulder injury, but actually, they just have really tight nerves. If you’re having shoulder pain, that goes up into the neck, and you’ve noticed that the pain doesn’t just stay in the shoulder – maybe it goes down the arm a little bit, maybe your hand has been feeling weird – or that your shoulder pain is something that you can’t pinpoint and it seems to kind of travel, it could be pain that is associated with nerve tension.

Nerves, you can imagine, are like a string. They start in your brain, go down your neck, and then there’s a big bundle of them that have to pass through some narrow openings in your armpit region as they go down into your arm. If they’re compressed somewhere or just irritated and inflamed, they can cause pain.

A couple things you can try to calm them down are discussed here:

Warm/loosen up:

  • First, is foam rolling the mid to upper back, because whenever you mobilize your nerves, you want to make sure your spine and shoulder girdle are nice and loose.

  • Once you’ve done that, you can do some thread-the-needles. You are on your hands and knees reaching down and under your body and then rotating all the way up towards sky/ceiling. If that’s a little too intense or uncomfortable, you can also stand at a wall with your arm behind your head and just rotate close and rotate open. Basically we are just getting this mid to upper back, moving a little bit.


  • The for first one, your arms are going to be close to your side, and you extend them with your palms up out to the side, adding in an extra wrist extension, and then come back to center. You just go as far as you can go and the pull that you feel is gentle. You don’t want to push to anything extreme, you should just go until you feel a gentle pull and then come back to center.

  • The next one has a couple of different versions. My favorite is head resting in your hand and then do a “Stop in the name of love” or a “talk to the hand position” while your head leans the other way. With nerves, they don’t like to be held in the stretched position, so you want to make sure that you’re keeping the flow going in and out.

  • For the last one, you’re gonna make the number four with your hands, you can cross your arms in front of your body, and then you spin the four up and back to the side. If you don’t feel anything with your hand making the number four, close your hands around your thumb. You might feel a stretch across the forearm for that one.

Those are three nerves in the neck, shoulder, elbow, hand region that can get tight and cause some pain. If you’re having moving symptoms or just some tension in the neck, shoulder arm area, you might give those a try.

Here at Peak Endurance Performance & Physical Therapy we help active adults in the Madison Area get back to the activities they love without pain or limitations. We see people of all ages, ability levels, and individuals trying to get back to a multitude of movements including: getting back into running, women postpartum, CrossFit athletes, climbers, gymnasts, wrestlers, overhead athletes, and your recreational weekend warrior. If you’re looking to get back to the activities that give you meaning, relieve stress, and make you feel like you again, feel free to reach out below and we’ll see if we’re the right fit for you.