What is a Pinched Nerve in Shoulder?
A pinched nerve causing shoulder pain is a sign that you are dealing with Cervical Radiculopathy. A disc bulge in the cervical spine, as the name implies, will bulge out a little but. As a result of this structure not being where it is supposed to be, it can compress a nerve root coming out of the spinal cord. Discs usually have no contact with the nerves outside of the spinal cord, but in the case of a bulging disc, they often do. This is described as a pinched nerve, but the nerve may not be being pinched per se, simply touched, compressed, or irritated in an area where it shouldn’t be coming into contact with other structures. When a thorough exam of shoulder structures has determined that nothing is wrong with the shoulder itself, the problem is most likely spinal related.
This ‘pinched’ nerve in the neck may lead you to feeling symptoms in your shoulder, other than the site of origin of the problem. Cervical Radiculopathy is exactly this. It happens when pain or another symptom is felt elsewhere than in the neck itself. You do not need to be experiencing neck pain in order to be diagnosed with Cervical Radiculopathy.
What Causes a Pinched Nerve in Shoulder?
The causes of a pinched nerve can be any or all of the following:
- Poor posture or prolonged awkward positions during the night when asleep
- Poor ergonomic at work or a physically demanding job
- Trauma such as from a car or motorcycle accident
- Degenerative changes to the discs and /or bones of the spinal column
- Rheumatoid arthritis
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Symptoms of a Pinched Nerve in Shoulder
Symptoms of a pinched nerve will generally be one sided and may be:
- Neck pain (although there may not be any pain in the neck)
- Pain felt in the shoulder or shoulder blade area that may come and go
- Numbness or tingling felt in the shoulder area
- Shoulder weakness
- Loss of range of motion in the neck and pain when rotating the neck to one side
- The pain experienced in the shoulder or shoulder blade area will be worsened when rotating or tilting the neck to one side
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How to Treat a Pinched Nerve in Shoulder
Generally, a pinched nerve in the neck with radicular symptoms to the shoulder has a good prognosis with conservative treatment. Rarely will this require surgical intervention. Conservative interventions may be:
- Physical therapy will be ordered to reduce the bulge by teaching the patient specific directional movements to perform. Posture and body mechanics will also be an important part of physical therapy as well as exercises to restore and lost strength or range of motion in the neck and shoulder
- Wearing a soft cervical collar may be recommended
- NSAIDs or oral corticosteroids may be advised
- Steroid injection
- Prescription pain relievers
If the above methods fail to relieve pain, your doctor will discuss surgical options with you depending on the severity and location of the compressed nerve causing the pain.