A pinched nerve in shoulder (or any other joint of the body) leads to the development of neuralgia. In most cases, the radial nerve gets injured. It is located the closest to the shoulder joint. The problem is less common for the axillary nerve and the median nerve. The disease rarely affects the fascicles of the brachial plexus.

Pinched Nerve in Shoulder and Shoulder Blade

Peculiarities of Pinched Nerves

In a pinched nerve in various joints, pain syndrome occurs solely because of a vivid mechanical impact which grows during active movements of the injured joint. In the initial stages of neuralgia, there are no signs of inflammation, especially of an infectious origin. Neuralgia should be differentiated from neuritis. Neuritis is an inflammation of the nerve trunk itself. It is not only painful but also causes the dysfunctions of various severity. In most cases, in the absence of the proper therapy neuritis turns smoothly into neuralgia due to the development of non-infectious inflammation which can become contagious under predisposing circumstances.

Pinched Nerve in Shoulder Blade

Pinched nerve in shoulder blade is one of the common causes of pain in the back. The causes and symptoms of pinched nerve in shoulder blade area are exactly the same as in common pinched nerve though one should be careful with it. Pain in shoulder blade area may be a reason for a far more serious diagnosis. A pinched nerve near the left shoulder blade is peculiar for its shooting pain in the whole arm. However, even if you are sure about your assumption, it is reasonable to consult a doctor. The symptoms are sometimes identical to heartache. Moreover, such situations often require medication. If you suspect a pinched nerve under shoulder blade on the right, there still may be confusion about the diagnosis as long as such pain occurs in pneumonia, pleurisy, or cancerous tumors. Either way, one should not underestimate a pinched nerve situation and immediately visit a specialist and avoid self-medication. Perhaps your timely appeal for medical help will prevent harmful effects to your health.

Pinched Nerve in Shoulder Blade

Pinched Nerve Causes

The most common causes of a shoulder pinched nerve are as follows:

  • traumas of the upper limb girdle caused by punching;
  • bullet or stab wounds to the shoulder joint;
  • fractures;
  • dislocations and subluxations;
  • the so-called “crutch injury” arising from prolonged compression of the axilla with the unspecialized crutches;
  • unsuccessful surgeries performed in the shoulder joint area, as well as various post-operative complications (adhesions, scars, new growths);
  • benign and malignant tumors of the axillary fossa;
  • severe long-term overload of the shoulder joint;
  • frequently constrained position: an awkward body position during sleep (a common problem of young mothers who fall asleep while feeding a baby on one side with a hand put under the head or when one of the partners sleeps on the shoulder of a spouse);
  • injections unsuccessfully performed into the area of the shoulder joint.

Symptoms of Pinched Nerve in Shoulder

As we have mentioned above, the radial nerve is the one that gets injured the most. It belongs to one of a few nerve trunks consisting of the motor and sensory unit. Depending on the fact whether a single part or the whole unit gets damaged, the symptoms of pinched nerve in shoulder are as follows:

  • difficulty with opening straight fingers in folded hands and forearms;
  • difficulty with moving the joints of the hand after a night’s sleep;
  • numbness in the thumb, index, and middle fingers after sleep or after the hand is long at rest;
  • wrist drop: a violation of extension of the wrist joint; a person feels like it is impossible to hold the hand in a horizontal position by pulling the patient hands parallel to the floor;
  • impossibility of thumb abduction, as well as its extension and connection with the index finger;
  • aching, sharp, or stabbing pain in the extensor muscle of the forearm and hand (especially pronounced in the dorslim of hand in extension); pain can be both permanent and paroxysmal, accompanied by sweating, pallor or dermahemia;
  • occurrence of involuntary muscle twitches;
  • disorder of skin sensitivity (hypoesthesia or sensitivity impairment) on the shoulder, the forearm, and the first three fingers of the hand.

Treatment for Pinched Nerve in Shoulder

The treatment for pinched nerve in shoulder requires special attention of several specialists at the same time: a therapist, a neurologist, and an orthopedic surgeon. The therapist is the primary link at the stage of diagnosis of this disease. This specialist, to a greater extent, is the very person who defines the success of the therapy. A timely diagnosis is a key to a more favorable prognosis.

Treatment for Pinched Nerve in Shoulder


  • Drug therapy for neuralgia is reduced to the use of drugs for pain relief and inflammation reduction.
  • For this purpose, the doctors prefer drugs based on ibuprofen (Nurofen, Ibuprofen) and paracetamol (Paracetamol, Panadol, etc.). A patient will feel the effect of the drugs in 10-25 minutes and it will last from 3 to 8 hours, depending on the drug.
  • One should be careful with drugs based on acetylsalicylic acid (like aspirin), as their long intake can lead to the development of gastric ulcers and duodenal ulcer.

Orthopedic alignment and surgical correction

  • If the pinched shoulder nerve was caused by a dislocation or subluxation, it is enough to reduce the humeral head in the glenoid fossa. To relieve shoulder pain caused by pinched nerve and reduce the inflammation, it is enough to take a light nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug for a few days.
  • For injuries with fractures, especially comminuted fractures, a surgical reconstruction followed by plastering is carried out urgently to fix the problem. The above-mentioned drugs and antibiotics are prescribed to treat the pinched nerve and to prevent the development of osteomyelitis.

Physical therapy

  • Introduction of drugs with electrophoresis directly into the problematic area proved to be efficient.
  • In addition, the patients with neuralgia undergo short-impulse electroanalgesia and magnetic laser therapy.

Therapeutic exercises

  • Therapeutic physical training is used in the rehabilitation period for treating and securing the normal functioning of the muscles and joints.
  • The exercises are based on the fast and slow movements in small and medium joints of the hands, adapting the muscles to active consensual movements.

Folk Remedies

Self-treatment for a pinched nerve between shoulder blades and folk remedies for treating a pinched nerve in neck and shoulder can be very dangerous. Under no circumstances can home remedies be the basis treatment. Here we provide several folk remedies which could be used as an addition to the conventional medicine if approved by your doctor.

Rubbing with a decoction of wormwood is used as a topical analgesic. To prepare the broth, you need to pour 20 grams of wormwood with 300 ml of boiling water and leave for 2 hours in a thermos. Strain the decoction and rub it into the affected area.

The hops ointment has an anti-inflammatory and analgesic effect. Make a powder from the dried hop cones. Mix 30 grams of powder with lard and rub the mixture into the affected areas.

The baths with sage and chamomile have a local anti-inflammatory effect and help to relax in general. Pour 100 grams of the herbs with 3 liters of boiling water and leave it for 2 hours. Then pour the infusion into a bath with the water of 38 degrees.

The infusion of cranberries has an anti-inflammatory and diuretic effect which help to removes puffiness very well. Add 300 ml of boiling water to 30 grams of cranberry leaves and berries. Leave the infusion for an hour and drink the tea in 4 intakes.

Exercises for Pinched Nerve in Shoulder

To cure the disease completely, one should remember that the exercises for pinched nerve in shoulder are vital in the rehabilitation period. Here are some of the most popular and effective exercises which are easily performed. They will for sure contribute to your therapy if you choose treatment at home.

  • Use a broom for your bench press. Lie down to do the exercise. When lying down, take a broom and hold it across your body. Use your both hands and keep them at shoulder lengths. With a broom pressed upwards, press until your elbows become straight. Do the exercise for 15 times. Remember to take a half a minute break between the sets.
  • Shrug your shoulders. You have to stand to do this exercise. With your arms at your sides, shrug your shoulders (you have to do that backward in a rotating motion). Get back to the original position in a similar movement (just from the opposite direction). Repeat the exercise for 15 times. A half a minute break is necessary between the sets as well.
  • Extensions of the chin. Sit on a chair with the fingers on your both hands interlaced. Put your hands just behind your head. Start moving your chin downwards and to the right side simultaneously. Hold the position for 15 seconds before you look forward again. Do the exercise on the left side (repeat 5 times for each direction).