“Pinched nerve” is a name used to describe a condition that is characterized by pain, numbness, and an overall uncomfortable sensation that occurs due to the irritation or damage of a nerve. This problem can be caused by a great number of reasons and its severity varies greatly. If you experience a pinched nerve in your shoulder blade, you need to determine the source of the issue.
Symptoms and Diagnosis
There are many reasons that can cause pain in your shoulder blade or upper back. You might have a pinched nerve if:
- The pain you experience is either dull and aching or sharp and originates from the inside of the shoulder blade.
- You experience the feeling of pins and needles or numbness in your fingers.
- The pain shoots to your elbow from the shoulder.
- Your condition gets worse after you rest.
- Pain relievers don’t help.
This condition occurs when the nerve in your shoulder is irritated by pressure (it can originate from anywhere, ranging from an uncomfortable position during sleep to arthritis). When this happens, your nerve loses the ability to conduct impulses correctly. The damaged area usually sends out signals of pain or numbness to the brain in order to draw its attention to the fact that something isn’t right. It’s imperative to take note of this warning and seek medical attention.
Note that there are many muscle and joint conditions that can have similar symptoms. However, the treatment they require differs from the one you will need in order to repair nerve damage. A qualified and experienced health care specialist should be able to diagnose your condition correctly by studying the history of symptoms development and a careful physical examination. The extent of the damage to your nerves is usually determined by electromyography. Depending on the cause of the problem, you may need to take some additional tests.
How to Relieve a Pinched Nerve
You need to consult a doctor in order to develop an efficient treatment plan for your condition as the methods used to relieve this type of pain vary greatly. The most effective of them are:
- Rest and immobilization – If your problem is caused by repetitive activities that injure the nerve, immobilizing the shoulder for a while may help. This will give the damaged tissues some time to heal on their own.It’s usually beneficial to allow your body to heal at its own pace as there is little you can do to treat this problem. However, if the cause of the issue is inflammation, this approach will not be efficient.
- Taking ibuprofen and similar over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications – These drugs reduce the inflammation and therefore, relieve the pain caused by it. They may not be able to block the signals that the damaged nerve sends out to your brain. However, these medications will speed up the process of recovery.
- Injections of corticosteroids – This type of treatment is used in the cases of severe inflammation and serious injury. You need to consult your doctor about corticosteroids prescription if other methods don’t seem to help.These drugs have many negative side effects and cannot be used in combination with a few other medications. You need to inform your doctor about any health conditions you have and the drugs you take on a regular basis.
- Physical therapy – Exercising the damaged nerve can help relieve the pressure and facilitate the healing process. It’s imperative that you consult an experienced medical specialist before you start any type of physical therapy. Your exercise plan must be developed by a qualified professional who can take all the details of your condition into account.
- Surgery – This particular treatment method is used only in extremely rare cases. Usually, the surgery aims to repair the original trauma which causes the damage to the nerve. The kind of damage that will require such a high degree of treatment mostly occurs due to a serious injury sustained in an accident.
A pinched nerve in the shoulder blade usually reacts well to treatment. Once the cause is identified, the condition can be healed within a few months. A relapse is possible if you overexert your shoulder before it is fully healed. Therefore, you should consult your doctor before you start any kind of exercise program.
It’s almost impossible to prevent this kind of problem as it is mostly caused by accidents. However, if you keep fit, your body will be able to take more damage, so the risk of getting a pinched nerve will be lowered.
The Best Exercises for a Pinched Nerve in the Shoulder Blade
If your doctor allows you to exercise, the following workout routine will be most effective:
- Stand up and extend the affected arm in front of your body. Do not bend it at the elbow.
Next, move the arm outwards to your side and then to the back of your body.
- Perform an arm circle. Start with the relaxed position at your side. Then move your arm forward, over your head, and to the back. Relax the arm again once you complete the circle and repeat. Try to keep your arm straight throughout the exercise.
- Stand up straight with your shoulders relaxed. Clasp your hands behind your back.
In case you cannot do this, take a towel in both hands and hold it horizontally behind your back. Keep both your posture and arms straight and start raising the arms away from your body.
- Sit down or stand up straight with your back and shoulders relaxed. Squeeze the shoulders together and stay in this position for a few seconds. Repeat the exercise no less than five times. Finally, shrug your shoulders and try to lift each one to your ear. Hold the position for a bit, relax, and repeat.