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How Do You Loosen a Pinched Nerve in Your Back?

How Do You Loosen a Pinched Nerve in Your Back?

Dr. Michael Derry, DPT, PT, OCS Jacksonville, Florida
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Loosening up a pinched nerve requires patience and feedback from your body. It's important to understand that most often the nerve isn't really pinched. Often times, it's the inflammation around the nerve that causes the pain. Imagine wet towel and what happens when you let that towel sit in water (inflammation) it swells up.

Then once you pull it, the water leaves the towel. That's why movement may hurt at first, but once you have been up and moving, you feel better.

The tips I use with my clients to loosen up a pinched nerve include

  • Motion is lotion
  • Every stretch should make you feel better, every time.

You want to move the nerve to loosen it up and provide relief and you should never feel worse afterwards.

favorite exercise to loosen up a pinched nerve is the supine sciatic nerve glide.

Stretch to loosen up a pinched nerve
Loosen up a pinched nerve

What is a Pinched Nerve? 

A pinched nerve is where the nerve exiting your spine is irritated either from a lack of space or inflammation.  

Chart of Types of Pinched Nervces
Types of Pinched Nerves

In my experience with pinched nerves they can either be: 

  • Old and Cold
  • Hot and Heavy

Old and cold nerves are those that are typically those experiencing symptoms longer than 6 months and will often have lingering hard to figure out discomfort that is often more noticeable with inactivity such as standing or sitting for long periods of time. These respond very well to nerve glides and learning how to improve nerve mobility.

Do Pinched Nerves Go Way on Their Own?

Yes, pinched nerves can improve without any intervention.

I have seen this happen so many times. In fact pinched nerves from conditions such as disc herniations, have been proven to resolve on their own over time. Just because the herniation may be gone, or the nerve may not be pinched, as found on an image, doesn't mean you can feel nerve pain or discomfort. It's often described a pain that is linear or in a line and is sharp, stabbing, or even burning.

A test to see if the nerve is still impinged can the Slump test or Neural DynamicTest. The good news is that the test is often the treatment. Here is what I will do with my clients to improve nerve pain.

In conclusion, understanding the nature of nerve pain and utilizing appropriate stretches and exercises can significantly improve your condition. Remember, motion is lotion, and consistent, gentle movement can help alleviate your discomfort. Should you have any questions or need further guidance, please don't hesitate to reach out. We're here to help and support you on your journey to better nerve health.


Zhong M, Liu JT, Jiang H, Mo W, Yu PF, Li XC, Xue RR. Incidence of Spontaneous Resorption of Lumbar Disc Herniation: A Meta-Analysis. Pain Physician. 2017 Jan-Feb;20(1):E45-E52. PMID: 28072796.

Dr. Michael Derry is a Doctor of Physical Therapy and board certified in orthopedics. He is very passionate about treating lower back pain and helping people build their resiliency. He has spent time assisting at universities as well as managing large clinics before starting his own practice in Jacksonville, FL.

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