Signs and Symptoms of a Pinched Nerve in the Neck and Shoulder Areas

A pinched nerve that affects the neck and shoulder area is called cervical radiculopathy or radialopathy 1. This condition can be caused by an injury like a car accident; osteoarthritis; a herniated, bulging or degenerative disc; bone spurs; or even a tumor. The actual pinched nerve occurs in the cervical or neck region, which controls certain nerves and reflexes in the shoulder 1. Symptoms can include pain, muscle weakness, and tingling and numbness.

Neck and Shoulder Pain

A pinched cervical nerve that causes pain in the neck and shoulder region usually occurs at the C5 nerve root 1. People who suffer from this type of injury are usually at least 40 or 50 years old. If the pain stems from a herniated disc, the jelly-like fluid or pulposus inside the disc is usually pushing against the nerve root, which can cause radiating pain from the back of the neck to the shoulder. Osteoarthritis or any other degenerative condition can cause the foramen, or opening of the spinal column from which the nerve extrudes, to exert pressure on the C5 nerve. Pain may be so intense that it hurts when coughing or sneezing. A person may also experience shooting pain that occurs intermittently.

Neck Pain and Shoulder Weakness

Like any condition, cervical neuropathy that affects the neck and shoulder can cause varying symptoms. Sometimes, a dull ache or tightness in neck muscles can flare outward and cause a weakness along the trapezius muscle as well as those in the shoulder scapula. This weakness may also affect the four muscles in the rotator cuff area: supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor, and subscapularis. Shoulder muscle weakness that stems from cervical neuropathy is considered a loss in motor function, according to the article, "Pinched Nerve In Neck," at 1. You should see a doctor to determine the exact cause of the weakness, and receive proper treatment.

Read more about effects of a pinched nerve in the neck.

Tingling and Numbness

Tingling and numbness from a pinched cervical nerve occur because the nerve compression cuts off nutrients that allow the transmission of nerve signals to reach the brain. The tingling and numbness usually occurs intermittently in small areas of the shoulder or under the arms. The sensation may feel like an area of the shoulder is asleep, as if there is a disruption of blood flow to the area. Tingling and numbness can be signs that the nerve fiber is dying or has stopped working. Again, a doctor should be able to pinpoint the exact nature of the problem and recommend a treatment.

Read more about the treatment of a pinched shoulder nerve.