A pinched nerve in the shoulder causes extreme pain and discomfort. The muscles, bones, cartilage, tendons and tissues surrounding the nerve are pressing on the nerve creating pressure and the "pinched" feeling. It is important to seek appropriate medical attention to prevent or lessen permanent damage to the nerve.
What Is a Pinched Shoulder Nerve?
Typically, the condition arises when too much pressure is applied to the shoulder nerve by the surrounding tissue, such as cartilage, tendons, bones and muscles. Symptoms include muscle weakness, numbness, pain and a tingling sensation that radiates along the shoulders and into the neck or spine. While pinched nerves may occur anywhere in the body, they most commonly affect the neck, shoulder and lower back.
Nerves may become "pinched" during strenuous physical activity, including running, jogging or weight-lifting. The problem may also stem from poor posture that causes tissue surrounding the nerve to "push" into the nerve. In obese people, the sheer mass of excessive tissue surrounding a nerve can be the cause. The trouble could be rooted in another medical problem, such as a herniated spinal disc.
Symptoms and Diagnosis
Sufferers often report decreased sensation in the shoulder muscles surrounding the nerve or nerves affected. As the nerves control a variety of muscles, the pinching could cause tingling of the arm, elbow and hands. Patients may also experience numbness or tingling in the shoulder, muscle twitching or a "pins and needles" sensation that radiates along the shoulders. Swelling occurs in rare instances.
Physicians can generally diagnose pinched shoulder nerves in one appointment. They will review the patient's medical history and recent physical activity; ask about the specific location and sensation of the pain; and put the patient through various arm and leg motions. In more severe cases, the patient may undergo an MRI or blood tests to check for possible underlying conditions.
Generally, a pinched nerve will recover within a week if the patient rests and follows simple precautions, such as refraining from exercise and any strenuous activity that may stress the surrounding shoulder muscles. Patients should sleep on their back. If they can't, they should place a pillow under their stomach to help keep their back straight. Your health care provider may suggest you take an over-the-counter pain reliever such as ibuprofen or Tylenol, or if the pain is significant she may prescribe a stronger, prescription pain reliever.
Treatment for Severe Cases
In severe cases of pinched shoulder nerves, the pain may be unbearable and even debilitating. If pain symptoms do not subside within a few days, patients should contact a physician. The doctor may prescribe stronger pain medications and perhaps suggest physical therapy or massage to strengthen and lengthen the shoulder muscles. Surgery is a last resort.