A pinched nerve in the shoulder blade is characterized by sensations of pain and numbness in that region. It typically arises due to interruption or blockage of nerve signals by any muscle, bone spur, joints, etc.
Pinched nerve in shoulder blade is also referred to as a trapped nerve because the affected nerve gets trapped or compressed by the bones, muscles, cartilage, and/or other tissues of the body. It can occur due to many different reasons such as strenuous exercising, discomforting movements, poor posture, accidents, obesity, incorrect method of exercising, slip disc, tumors, injuries, and physical and mental stress.
Mild symptoms associated with pinched nerve in shoulder blade can be alleviated with simple home remedies. Severe cases have to be medically diagnosed and treated.
Symptoms of a pinched nerve in shoulder blade
A pinched nerve in shoulder blade typically causes very clear symptoms. Affected individuals will experience a lot of pain along with numbing or tingling sensations as well as weakness. These symptoms may be short-term or chronic.It may be noted that a majority of these symptoms arise from the C5 nerve which is situated ‘not’ in the shoulder blade, but in the neck. However, pinching of a nerve in this region can cause the pain to occur in the shoulders.
Some of the common signs and symptoms of a pinched nerve in shoulder blade are listed below:
- Pain: Different people will experience the pain associated with a pinched nerve in shoulder blade differently. Some may experience it as shooting pains while others may suffer from burning sensations. Patients may also elicit neck pain and/or headaches. The additional symptoms may occur due to muscle spasms that affect the region around the affected nerve, or due to problems of the nerve itself. Patients may move around to find relief from the pain. Persistent pain has to be checked by a doctor.
- Numbness and tingling: The best way to define numbness and tingling sensations associated with a pinched nerve in shoulder blade is the feeling of ‘pins and needles’ on the arm, or that of the arm ‘falling asleep.’ Such symptoms may be continuous or they may occur in intervals. It may occasionally alleviate quickly, particularly with movement.
- Weakness: The shoulder muscles may experience some weakness leading to problems in lifting objects. Sometimes, patients may not even be able to raise their hands over their head. The weakness may affect just the hand or the complete arm. Any increase in the levels and severity of weakness requires immediate medical attention.
The occurrence of pain and other associated symptoms of a pinched nerve in shoulder blade is dependent on the nerve which gets pinched and the severity of the condition. The problem is usually minor and vanishes on its own after some time, in most instances. Caseswith lingering symptoms however need medical assistance.
- A pinched nerve in shoulder blade typically affects individuals post exhaustive physical activity, particularly in athletes who are badly trained, which causes increased extension of the peripheral nerve fibers in some areas, or inflammation, or when the nerve leaves or enters the joints.
- Other prevalent causes of a pinched nerve in shoulder blade are as follows:
- Being overweight or obesity
- Poorly managed physical excursions
- Poor posture
- Poorly managed and long term cases of herniated spinal discs and extensive osteoporosis.
Diagnosis of a pinched nerve in shoulder blade includes:
- Checking the physical, medical, and surgical history of the patient.
- A physical examination to verify loss of muscle tone, weakness, and/or pain affecting the shoulder or some part of the arm.
- Motor assessment tests, electromyography, or nerve conduction assessment to verify the proportion of nerve involvement.
- Initial diagnosis is later confirmed by varied tests such as a CT scan, x-ray, and/or MRI of the spine and other areas. This helps locate the source of the problem.
Treatment of a pinched nerve in shoulder blade
Minor instances of a pinched nerve in shoulder blade can be alleviated with home remedies while severe cases require medical attention.
Treatment of a pinched nerve in shoulder blade includes:
- Bed rest: A pinched nerve in shoulder blade can heal quickly by resting the affected area. You may sleep flat on the back so as to decrease the pressure which may be causing the pinched nerve. Avoid moving the arm or hand when resting. Consult a doctor for specific information about resting particular areas of the body.
- Cold and hot compresses: Nerve inflammation and pain can be alleviated by alternating use of hot and cold compresses. You may apply an ice pack on the affected area for 10 minutes and then use a heating pad on the same region for 10 minutes. Repeat till you find relief.
- Minor exercises: Consult a physical therapist to confirm varied exercises that can help find relief from a pinched nerve in shoulder blade. A few common exercises include chin extension, shoulder shrugs, and bench press without any barbell.
- Medicines: OTC pain killers can help ease pain and inflammation. Drugs like Neurontin and lyrica specifically work towards alleviating pinched nerve pain. Doctors may prescribe narcotics for severe or chronic pain.
- Injections and surgery: Pinched nerve pain can be reduced with cortisone injections. Doctors may opt for surgery if the issue persists. Surgery is usually the last option, often taken to correct severe cases of herniated cervical disc, or in instances where only surgery can reverse the constant nerve damage.
- Other treatment options:A pinched nerve in shoulder blade can also be alleviated via:
- Correcting and maintaining a proper body posture.
- Acupuncture, a healthy weight, and a balanced diet can also help reduce the pain caused by a pinched nerve in shoulder blade.
- Using a collar or a splint to limit the movement of the neck, thereby providing sufficient recovery time for the inflamed tissues, muscles, ligaments, and tendons.
- Physical therapy to increase the range of motion of the affected shoulder as well as lengthen and stretch certain muscles so as to ease the pressure on the damaged nerve and ensure speedy recovery.