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Pinched Nerve in Shoulder: Symptoms and Treatment

A pinched nerve in the shoulder happens when a body part or surrounding bone interferes or pressures a nerve coming from the neck.

This issue can result in severe shoulder pain and numbness of the hand or arm. It is a unique injury in that it either goes away on its own or can become more painful through aggravated misuse of the body part.

In this article, we examine what causes a pinched nerve, the warning signs to look out for, how to get it treated, and the various strategies you can implement to get your shoulder back to 100%.

What Causes a Pinched Nerve in the Shoulder?

You will likely experience a pinched nerve due to irregular shifts within your spinal column. Various materials like bone, swollen tissues, or disk protrusions implement pressure on the nerves that extend from the spinal cord towards the shoulder and neck.

The spine includes a set of 24 bones called vertebrae, which are connected by protective, cushioned disks.

The first seven are cervical, the middle twelve are thoracic, and the last five are lumbar.

A pinched nerve affects the cervical section specifically. This part of the spine contains nerve that connects it to the brain by transmitting essential signals to the rest of the body. So when you damage or pinch a nerve in your shoulder blade, it impacts your body more than you think.

The cause of a pinched nerve takes place in one of three ways:

  • disk degeneration
  • a herniated disk
  • acute injury.

Disk Degeneration

The gel-like disks located between the cervical vertebrae play a pivotal role in the function of your spine.

If your back experiences prolonged strain and pressure throughout your life, the disks tend to wear down and slide up against each other. As the disks continue to rub and break down, they touch the nerves, which causes them to pinch.

Herniated Discs

In the same fashion as disk generation, irregular movement in the spine can cause the discs to move out of their regular position. Sometimes the disc will stick out to the point where they depart from the spinal column.

As they protrude further away, the nerves often get pressed and eventually pinched.

Acute Injury

Pinches nerves can happen gradually throughout time, but they often occur in a single moment through an acute injury. This damage happens through events like a car accident, sports injury, or working on a project where you have to contort in an abnormal position.

Do Pinched Nerves go away on their Own?

Although they will probably disappear eventually, you do not know the severity of the pinch, so it is best to seek a doctor and get a professional opinion.

Most symptoms for a pinched nerve in the shoulder are easy to identify, but you should not ignore them. Look out for sudden changes of pain on the same side as the shoulder that is in pain. This issue is a sign that a specific area of your body got affected.

Also, look for weakness in your arm, hand, or shoulder. If a nerve gets affected, it can extend down your adjacent ligaments. If you notice that you cannot grip or exert pressure on objects as effectively, this could be a sign of a pinched nerve.

It is also crucial to be mindful of any unique neck pain you feel. Be especially wary if it causes pain when you turn your head from side to side.

Lastly, a pinched nerve will create a subtle tingling and numbness in your fingers or hand. If you experience this frustrating sensation without exerting pressure, you are most likely dealing with the symptoms of a pinched nerve.

Diagnosis of a Pinched Nerve

Once you decide that it is the right time to see a chiropractor about your pinched nerve there are a variety of different ways that he or she will diagnose the pinched nerve in the shoulder.

First, a history and physical examination can take place. The chiropractor will inquire about your symptoms and when you noticed them. Your shoulder, neck, and other surrounding areas will also get checked for noticeable issues.

There are also more technological strategies to diagnose the pinched nerve.

First, an x-ray or CT scan will reveal the details of the spinal bones and the position. An MRI will also provide more accurate detail or soft tissues and nerves that a CT scan or x-ray might not pick up.  Lastly, electrodiagnostic studies will use electrical needles to test the nerve function in the body by sending signals to the neck and shoulder.

Treatment for a Pinched Nerve

Treatment for a pinched nerve in the shoulder will depend on what caused it, how severe the pain becomes, and how it impacts daily activities.

One route may be taking a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug like naproxen or ibuprofen. Another method to subside the inflammation is through oral or injected corticosteroids.

Medical professionals will also recommend wearing a softer, cervical collar that will restrict movement in the neck and motivate the nerves to heal.

For a long-term solution, a patient may elect to choose physical therapy. The exercises that get instilled here will work to expand the range of motion and eliminate stiffness.

What Happens if you let a Pinched Nerve Go Untreated?

While some symptoms subside, permanent damage can cause the nerve to cause long-term problems and more consistent pain for the person.

How Do You Repair the Nerve?

If a patient does not respond well to nonsurgical treatment for a pinched nerve in the shoulder, doctors will recommend one of three surgeries to repair it.

Surgeries to Fix a Pinched Nerve

One strategy is anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDR), where the surgeon locates the front neck bones and removes the area of the disk or bone that is causing the pain. This operation is done by fusing the components of the spine to reduce pain.

The second option is artificial disk replacement, which exchanges a damaged or affected disk with one that gets manufactured from plastic, metal, or a combination of both.

Posterior cervical foraminotomy is another method that makes a 1- or 2-inch cut on the back area of the neck and removes parts of the spine that are pressing the nerves in the back.

How do you Release a Pinched Nerve in the Shoulder Blade?

You can start by applying ice packs covered with cloth to the shoulder blade area. You should make sure to keep this on for about 48 hours.

You can also invest in your health by purchasing a neck pillow design to support the painful area while you sleep. A lot of people credit their disappearing pain to a healthy support system since you often rest/sleep for at least 8 hours per day.

Frequent and consistent massages encourage and increase circulation to the inflamed area. Lastly, focus on proper postures when you are sitting at a desk or holding a specific position for a prolonged time.

Also, ensure that you participate in regular physical activity to help relieve stiffness and maintain a healthy weight during the process. A pinched nerve in the shoulder exercises includes shoulder roll, neck bend, head turn, chin tuck, and trapezius stretch.

Contact South Bellevue Chiropractic & Massage

It is important to understand why you have pain due to a pinched nerve in your shoulder. If any symptoms exist for an extended period of time, do not hesitate to contact us.

While symptoms typically go away eventually, you do not want them to survive for longer than they should. There are multiple strategies like physical therapy, stretching, exercise, and posture changes that will help nurse you back to full health.

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