Pinched Nerve in Your Shoulder? 6 Treatment Options

Fri, Nov 03, 2023

Pinched Nerve in Your Shoulder? 6 Treatment Options

A pinched nerve in the shoulder occurs when there is increased pressure or compression on one of the nerves in the area, resulting in pain, numbness, or tingling in the shoulder, as well as potentially affecting the arm and hand and limiting your range of motion. These symptoms can worsen with certain movements or positions, such as reaching overhead or lifting objects.

If you think you’re suffering from this condition and wonder how long the pinched nerve will last, you’re not alone. Approximately 85 out of 100,000 adults experience one each year. North Carolina Specialty Hospital explains what you need to know about this potentially painful condition.

Understanding a Pinched Nerve in the Shoulder: Causes and Treatment

Pinched nerves in the shoulder occur when pressure is applied to a nerve by the surrounding tissue. This can be caused by:

  • Bone spurs
  • Muscle weakness
  • Poor posture
  • Injuries
  • Herniated discs
  • Repetitive motions
  • Pregnancy
  • Arthritis and degeneration
  • Obesity

If left untreated, a pinched nerve in the shoulder can lead to chronic pain and potentially even permanent nerve damage.

Diagnosis of a Pinched Nerve

To diagnose a pinched nerve, your health care provider evaluates your symptoms, looks for muscle weakness and changes in reflexes, and asks about the sensations you’re feeling.

If necessary, you may have an MRI to show if damage to soft tissues is causing the nerve compression.

6 Pinched Nerve Treatment Options

Shoulder pain can be debilitating, affecting daily activities and overall quality of life. Fortunately, there are treatment options to relieve shoulder pain and improve function. Options range from conservative approaches to surgical interventions, depending on the severity and underlying cause.

1. Resting

Resting gives the affected area a break from repetitive motions and activities that aggravate the condition by helping relieve pressure on the muscles and tissues. It reduces inflammation, pain, and discomfort and allows for damage repair.

Doctors often recommend different rest positions for various nerve compression conditions in the shoulder, including:

  • Lying down on the back with a pillow supporting the shoulder, back, or neck
  • Placing a pillow between the arm and body
  • Sitting in an upright position with proper posture to reduce strain on the shoulder
2. Hot and Cold Compresses

Another effective way to relieve a pinched nerve in the shoulder is by alternating hot and cold compresses on the affected area.
Cold helps constrict blood vessels, which can reduce swelling and numb the area, alleviating pain. The heat helps to increase blood flow to the affected area, promoting healing and relaxing muscles.

3. Over-the-Counter and Prescribed Medications

Various over-the-counter medications can provide effective relief for a pinched nerve. Your doctor may recommend acetaminophen and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen and naproxen.

Additionally, corticosteroids, like prednisone, are often prescribed to reduce inflammation and relieve pain. They can be taken orally or injected directly into the affected area.

4. An Ergonomic Workstation

Using ergonomic mouse and keyboard setups can potentially reduce strain on the hands and wrists, while elevating the computer monitor to eye level may help alleviate neck and shoulder pain.

5. Physical Exercises

Physical exercises play a crucial role in relieving pain caused by a pinched nerve in the shoulder blade by helping reduce pressure on the affected nerve and strengthen the surrounding muscles.

  • Stretching exercises increase flexibility and release tension in the shoulder blade area.
  • Strengthening exercises build the muscles around the shoulder blade, which helps stabilize the joint and relieve pressure on the pinched nerve.
  • Motion exercises promote fluid movement and prevent stiffness in the shoulder joint.

Your doctor or physical therapist will determine the most appropriate exercises for your condition.

6. Surgery

In some cases, surgical procedures may be necessary to treat a pinched nerve in the shoulder. Surgery is typically recommended when noninvasive treatments have been ineffective, when there is severe nerve compression causing weakness or muscle wasting, or when there is evidence of cervical radiculopathy, a condition where a nerve in the cervical spine is compromised.

The surgical treatment depends on factors such as the underlying cause of the pinched nerve, the location and severity of the compression, and the individual’s medical history and overall health.

A common surgical procedure for a pinched nerve in the shoulder is arthroscopic suprascapular surgery to alleviate pressure on the nerve and remove any bone spurs.

When to Seek Professional Treatment for a Pinched Nerve

While many cases of pinched nerves can be managed at home, severe pain, numbness, and tingling that don’t lessen with rest and over-the-counter medications after several days or a week warrant professional medical attention. If left untreated, a pinched nerve can lead to permanent nerve damage.

A North Carolina Specialty Hospital orthopedic expert can evaluate your condition and provide treatments such as physical therapy, medications for pain relief, or other interventions based on the severity of your condition.

Pinched Nerve Recovery Time

How long does it take for a pinched nerve in the shoulder to heal? Many pinched nerves will heal within four to six weeks following at-home treatments. But for those with more severe symptoms that require surgery, it may take four to eight weeks for initial recovery wearing a sling, with full muscle recovery taking up to a year.

The Region’s Top Shoulder Pain Experts

If you suspect you have a pinched nerve in the shoulder, don’t suffer. Make North Carolina Specialty Hospital your first call. We’ve been providing the Triangle region with the highest-quality care since 1926.

To request an appointment, click on the surgeon’s photo and make an appointment with them directly. We look forward to helping you get back to your best quality of life.

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