“Pinched nerve” – this term is common in normal conversation. Many people hear it, but not many know what it really means. People often voice this complaint in the area of the shoulder. Pinched nerves are quite painful, but the condition is not always due to a pinching or a nerve! Pinched nerves are clinically called nerve compressions. These compressions are often caused by bones, tendons, cartilage and muscles which surround a nerve as well as its branches. Pinched nerves in the shoulder area often occur when muscles tighten, however, the actual nerve is, in fact, NOT applying pressure to any nerves in or near the shoulder!
One common symptom of pinched nerves is the pain people feel. This pain shoots into the sufferer’s shoulder. The pain may be isolated to a single spot, or it may cover the complete shoulder area. The span of the pain depends upon the location of the pinched nerve. When the nerve lies too near the spinal cord or stems from the neck, any head or neck movements will increase the pain.
Nerves help activate muscles. When a nerve is compressed, the signal it sends to the muscle will be weakened. Muscles attached to the nerve will be weaker when a pinched nerve is present in the shoulder. The weakness will be pronounced with certain motions, such as reaching above shoulder level. The weakness will be located in different areas of the shoulder and arm, depending on the location of the pinched nerve.
Twitching, or muscle spasms, may happen with pinched shoulder nerves. Pinched nerves in the neck especially cause muscle spasms.
Tingling or numbness may also happen when a nerve is pinched. It may feel that the shoulder has no feeling. A person might describe the shoulder as “feeling dead” or having no sensation to the touch. The feeling of “needles and pins” is a second common complaint. People will complain that their arm, neck or shoulder feels “asleep”, or tingly all over. These complaints will happen anywhere between the hand and the neck. The severity depends on the location of the nerve compression.
Physical Therapy and Rest
Doctors often recommend rest for pinched nerves. The shoulder will need to relax for the muscle to release the nerve. Despite the inconvenience, many activities which aggravate or stress the shoulder will need to cease. Often, a sling is recommended to help stabilize the arm and shoulder area. Physical therapists may also know a few exercises which will loosen and strengthen the shoulder. The exercises are also designed to relieve pressure near the nerve. Therapists also teach sufferers how to avoid the situation in the future.