Pinched a Nerve in Your Shoulder Blade? Know the Signs & Treatments

A pinched nerve refers to a condition where too much pressure is applied to the tissue surrounding the nerve, including a bone, muscle or cartilage. A pinched nerve is sometimes very pain and uncomfortable, especially when it affects the shoulder blade. This article will introduce a pinched nerve shoulder blade, its causes, symptoms and treatment in details.

What Is Pinched Nerve in Shoulder Blade?

A pinched nerve in the shoulder blade develops where tissue surrounding the shoulder blade suffers intense pressure. The pressure may result from a compressed or trapped nerve. A pinched nerve condition is not permanent.It interferes with the transmission of signals from the brain to the nerve. A pinched nerve shoulder blade is a common condition. It is not life-threatening, but affects the quality of life because of the resultant pain and discomfort.

What Causes Pinched Nerve in Shoulder Blade?

There are some factors that make you at risk of developing a pinched nerve in the shoulder blade, which include:

  • Large breasts. Women with large breasts are likely to develop a pinched nerve because of the poor posture associated with carrying large breasts.
  • A repeated movement of the shoulder can lead to a compressed nerve, which will eventually develop into a pinched nerve.
  • Overexertion of the arms also compresses nerves and causes a radicular pain that spreads to the shoulder blade.
  • Individuals suffering from obesity are prone to a pinched nerve in the shoulder blade. This is because the excess weight puts additional pressure on the nerves and muscles.  
  • Pregnancy may cause a pinched nerve because of the pressure that the growing fetus exerts on muscles and nerves.
  • Medical conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and carpal tunnel syndrome can put pressure on nerves because of the injury or damage associated with them.

What Are the Symptoms of Pinched Nerve in Shoulder Blade?

The common symptoms of a pinched nerve shoulder blade include:

1.  Pain

A pinched nerve may cause a burning sensation in your shoulder, which may radiate down your arm. The nerve compression causes painful muscle spasms. The University of Maryland Medical Center suggests that a pinched nerve is associated with occipital headaches and neck pain. Pain is the brain's reaction to a malfunction in your body. Hence, pain in your shoulder is an indicator that your nerve is either inflamed or compressed. A simple exercise like moving the shoulder may realign your body and relieve the pain. A sustained nerve compression may lead to a permanent nerve damage, which causes chronic pain.

2.  Weakness

Weakness in your shoulder and arm muscles is also a symptom of a pinched nerve. Muscle weakness sometimes leads to complete malfunction of the muscle. You cannot lift you arm above your head or use it to reach an item. Sometimes muscle weakness may cause you to drop items, especially when it extends to the lower part of your arm. You are advised to seek medical attention whenever you cannot perform simple tasks, such as picking items with your arms due to muscle weakness.

3.  Numbness and Tingling

You may experience numbness and tingling when suffering from a pinched nerve shoulder blade. Numbness makes you feel like your shoulder or arm is "falling asleep" while tingling refers to the "pins and needles" sensation on the affected area. These symptoms may come in waves or continuously, depending on the extent of nerve damage. Seek medical attention in case numbness and tingling do not disappear after resting. The persistent symptoms may imply an underlying condition or complication that requires immediate treatment.

How to Treat Pinched Nerve in Shoulder Blade

Treatment methods for a pinched nerve may vary, depending on its cause and severity. The major treatment options of relieving a pinched nerve are listed below.

1.  Resting

Complete rest relieves a pinched nerve and heals the affected area. Avoid moving your arm or shoulder when suffering from a pinched nerve. You can also try lying flat on your back to relieve pressure on your muscles and tissues. Your doctor may recommend different rest positions for different nerve compression conditions.

2.  Hot and Cold Compresses on the Affected Area

Hot and cold compresses relieve a pinched nerve shoulder blade. Alternate between cold and hot compressed on the affected shoulder area or arm to relieve pain and nerve inflammation. Place a cold pack on the affected area for about 15 minutes and then place a hot pack for another 15 minutes. Continue alternating these compresses until you feel relieved.

3.  Over-the-Counter and Prescribed Medications

Over the counter medications such as ibuprofen, Tylenol and naproxen are effective in relieving a pinched nerve. Medications, such as Lyrica or Neurontin specifically, relieve nerve pain effectively. Your doctor may prescribe muscle relaxants for your condition. If the pain from a pinched nerve is mild, you can start with over the counter medications. Seek medical attention in case of severe or persistent pain.

4.  Physical Exercises

Some of the physical exercises that can help relieve pain from a pinched nerve in the shoulder blade include stretching, strengthening and other motion exercises. Such simple exercises strengthen muscles and reduce the pressure on the pinched nerve.

5.  Injection and Surgery

Cortisone injections relieve nerve pain. You may require a surgical procedure if injections do not heal your pinched nerve and pain. Surgery is the last option when no treatments relieve pain or the nerve damage cannot be reversed without a surgical procedure.

6.  Other Treatment Options

Alternative treatment options for a pinched nerve include acupuncture, eating a healthy diet and maintaining a healthy weight. Maintaining the correct body posture also prevents and relieves a pinched nerve in the shoulder blade.

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