6 pinched shoulder nerve symptoms to mention to your PT

About 85 in every 100,000 people will experience a pinched nerve in their shoulder, resulting in pain, numbness or even a tingling sensation. But what is a pinched nerve? A pinched shoulder nerve, also known as suprascapular nerve entrapment syndrome, occurs when the nerve in the shoulder is compressed in some way.

Pinched nerves in the shoulder can cause debilitating pain in the back and shoulder area. And not only does a pinched nerve result in localized pain, it can also radiate pain down the arm and up the neck.

Ignoring the symptoms of a pinched nerve in the shoulder won’t make it go away. In fact, if you leave your nerve pain untreated, it may worsen over time. It’s better to address the symptoms of a pinched shoulder nerve sooner rather than later.

Symptoms of a pinched nerve in the shoulder

A pinched shoulder nerve can occur for a number of reasons. While injury is a common source of pinched nerves, other issues can also cause it, such as:

  • Disc trauma.
  • Herniation.
  • Degeneration.
  • Cyst.
  • Rotator cuff tear.

No matter what caused a pinched nerve in your shoulder, the symptoms are usually the same. While you may not experience all of these symptoms, if you have a pinched nerve in the shoulder, some of these will most likely occur:

  • Pain — One of the most common symptoms of a pinched shoulder nerve is sharp, aching or burning pain. It can be felt directly around the pinched nerve in the shoulder area or travel from the shoulder up to the neck or down the arm. It may worsen when you move your neck back and forth or side to side and improve when you put your hands on top of your head.
  • Numbness — Another typical symptom of a pinched nerve in the shoulder is numbness in your upper back, shoulder, arm or hand. This may create the sensation of your muscle or limb “falling asleep.”
  • Weakness — You may experience a loss of strength in your shoulder, arm or hand. This can mean you are unable to lift heavy things easily, or your strength may unexpectedly give out.
  • Paresthesia — Tingling or a “pins-and-needles” sensation in your neck, shoulder, hand or fingers is not uncommon, especially when paired with numbness. This means your pinched nerve is having trouble sending messages to other parts of your body.
  • Reduced mobility — You might experience a restricted range of movement or stiffness with a pinched nerve. This can happen because the pinched nerve makes it more difficult to move, or because the pain forces you to limit your mobility.
  • Muscle drop — If you feel unsteady while walking or if your shoulders seem imbalanced, you may be experiencing a sensation called muscle drop. This can influence your gait and balance, negatively affect your equilibrium, and make you less sure on your feet.

If you are experiencing these symptoms for more than a week or two, or if your symptoms are interfering with daily activities, contact your physical therapist. They’ll know how best to help you deal with your pinched shoulder nerve symptoms.

How PT can provide relief for symptoms of a pinched shoulder nerve

Minor pinched nerves can sometimes heal with the aid of rest, not overusing the affected muscle group, and modifying your activities until the pain stops. But if you have symptoms of a pinched nerve in the shoulder that aren’t going away, physical therapy can provide some much-needed relief. 

Manual therapy can decrease symptoms and start you on a path toward long-term healing. Here are a few manual therapy techniques that can provide relief for symptoms of a pinched nerve in the shoulder:

  • Joint manipulation — This targets specific joints to help improve range of motion and reduce stiffness and pain within the joint. It’s particularly effective for shoulder and elbow pain. 
  • Joint mobilization — Similar to joint manipulation, joint mobilization uses slow, repetitive movements to help improve range of motion in the joint. 
  • Therapeutic stretching — Assisted stretching can help deepen a stretch and isolate the tight muscles in the body. Stretching can improve mobility and posture, decrease symptoms of a pinched nerve in the shoulder, and relieve other pain and stiffness in the body.
  • Trigger point therapy — Sometimes, people may feel pain and stiffness in one place in the body because a trigger point (a knot in muscle or other soft tissue) somewhere else is compressing a nerve. Trigger point therapy is a technique used to relieve pain in the trigger point, which can also relieve pain in the referred area.
  • Soft tissue manipulation — Soft tissue manipulation can increase blood flow and stimulate healing in the soft tissue surrounding a tight or painful joint.

If you’re dealing with symptoms of a pinched shoulder nerve, manual therapy may be an effective treatment for you. Our licensed physical therapists can create a unique treatment plan designed around your needs and mobility that can help reduce your nerve pain and regain range of motion.

You don’t have to suffer from your symptoms of a pinched nerve in the shoulder without relief. Contact our team today for more information or to schedule an initial appointment.

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