A pinched nerve in the shoulder blade, also known as cervical radiculopathy, is a relatively common medical condition. A pinched nerve forms when a nerve near the spinal cord becomes inflamed or compressed, leading to shoulder blade pain. Older individuals with other back and spinal conditions often find themselves affected by pinched nerves.
Do you believe that you are suffering from a pinched nerve near your shoulder blade? Learn more about the causes, symptoms, and remedies available for treating trapped nerves.
What Causes Nerve Pain in the Shoulder?
Cervical radiculopathy is generally caused by degenerative spinal conditions. Other back problems and spinal conditions often accompany pinched nerves in the shoulder blade area. These degenerative conditions become more common with age.
Two common conditions leading to nerve pain include spondylosis and arthritis. Spondylosis occurs when the discs between the spinal vertebrae begin to disintegrate. Though these conditions sometimes cause sharp pain, they often do not. With age the spinal discs often dry out and lose their original shape. Roughly half of adults over the age of 50, in fact, have degenerated discs or a trapped nerve; most, however, never have any major symptoms. Some patients do experience pain, which can almost always be treated.
Herniated discs are another common cause of pinched nerves. Though most herniated discs can be attributed to age-related degeneration, some individuals experience disc herniation following exercise, heavy lifting, or a major accident.
Pregnancy, weight gain, and excessive water retention can also contribute to the development of a trapped nerve.
Nerve pain in the shoulder can usually be attributed to the C5 nerve or the C6 nerve. These nerves, which are located in the cervical spine, are often associated with shoulder blade pain as well as pain or numbness throughout the arms and hands.
Symptoms of a Pinched Nerve in the Shoulder Blade Area
The pain associated with cervical radiculopathy is generally fairly distinctive. For most patients, the nerve pain begins in the neck. This pain generally radiates throughout the shoulder blade and into one of the arms. A trapped c5 or c6 nerve often results in sharp burning or tingling pain in the arm, hand, and shoulder.
Other common symptoms of cervical radiculopathy include:
– an “electric” or burning sensation in the arm, hand, or shoulder blade
– muscle weakness in the shoulder, arm, or hand
– a sensation of tingling or “pins and needles”
– loss of feeling in the arm or hand
If placing both of your hands on top of your head reduces some of your shoulder pain symptoms, it is highly probable that you are suffering from cervical radiculopathy. If this trick does not give you temporary relief, though, don’t despair. Schedule an appointment with your doctor to figure out whether you are suffering from a pinched nerve or another back or shoulder blade condition.
Diagnosing a Pinched Nerve
A doctor can help determine whether or not you are suffering from cervical radiculopathy. Your doctor will generally talk to you about your symptoms and your medical history before giving you a physical examination. The doctor may check your reflexes and muscle strength to determine whether or not your symptoms are associated with a cervical pinched nerve.
To determine the specific source of your pain, your physician will most likely perform one or more scans or tests to get a clearer picture of your spine. An x-ray may be taken to examine the disc compression throughout your back. If your doctor suspects that you may be suffering from bone spurs along the spine, he may also take a CT scan of your back.
If a doctor suspects that you are suffering from a pinched nerve, he may also perform an electromyography (EMG) test. This test, which examines the electrical currents traveling through the muscles, is used to discern whether or not the spinal nerves are functioning properly.
MRI scans may also be run. These tests can determine if you are suffering from a herniated disc or another tissue condition.
By using one or more of these diagnostic measures, your doctor can ascertain whether or not you are suffering from a pinched nerve in your shoulder blade.
Treatment Options for Cervical Radiculopathy
In most cases, pinched nerve pain goes away on its own. For many patients, no treatment is required to get rid of the condition. If you are experiencing only minor pain, some stretches and exercises can give you relief and make the pain disappear more quickly.
If you are experiencing more severe nerve pain or have been experiencing discomfort for more than two months, other remedies may be recommended by your doctor. Physical therapy and massage are often used to reduce nerve pressure in the shoulder blade region.
You may also be given a soft cervical collar to wear. These collars reduce pain by limiting the range of motion in the neck. A cervical collar should only be worn temporarily, however, as long-term use may weaken the muscles in the neck.
Standard anti-inflammatory painkillers such as ibuprofen and aspirin are often recommended for pain relief. If these medications fail to relieve you from pain, stronger medications, such as oral corticosteroids, may be prescribed.
If these treatment options fail to reduce your nerve pain, other treatment options may be considered. Steroid injections are sometimes used to treat the swelling associated with spinal disc conditions.
If steroids fail to prevent pain from returning, surgical options may be considered. A few of the most common procedures include a cervical discectomy and fusion, a disc replacement, and a cervical laminoforaminotomy. The type of surgery that is best for you will depend on the location of your pain, your medical history, and your doctor’s treatment experience.
Though surgery is a possible shoulder pain remedy, most individuals suffering from pinched nerves find relief through non-invasive treatment. Painkillers and exercises are often enough to eliminate pain caused by cervical radiculopathy.
Though a pinched nerve in your shoulder blade can be extremely painful, this condition is generally fairly easy to treat. If you believe that you are suffering from cervical radiculopathy, try treating your condition with stretches, exercise, and anti-inflammatory medications. If your pain persists or worsens, reach out to a health care professional. With a doctor’s guidance you can develop a treatment plan that works for you.