Remedying a Pinched Nerve in Your Shoulder

Many people believe that a pinched nerve in the shoulder occurs when the nerve gets compressed between a muscle, bone, tendon or cartilage. In reality, a pinched nerve in the shoulder occurs in a disc in the neck region and travels its way down to your outer extremities. In many cases, inflammation occurs leaving your muscles feeling weak. In most cases, a pinched nerve in the shoulder will work itself out on its own in a short period of time. However, in advanced cases, other treatment options may be necessary.


  • Sharp pain that radiates throughout the entire shoulder or may be centralized in one particular area
  • Muscle spasms may occur when you have a pinched nerve in the shoulder
  • A stinging or dull feeling may occur when a pinched nerve occurs in the shoulder
  • You may experience weakness in the shoulder that has the pinched nerve

Avoid exercise or activities where you would use your shoulder or upper extremities in excess. At night, attempt to sleep on your back. Place a pillow under your stomach as this will allow you to keep your back straight. Take an over-the-counter pain reliever such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. If your pain persists, contact your doctor. You may need to see a physical therapist, chiropractor or orthopedic specialist. In extreme cases, surgery may be needed.

Additional Tips:
What causes shoulder pain?
Your shoulder is considered to be one of the most mobile joints in the entire human body. It is important to know that there are other causes to shoulder pain. These include but are not limited to tendinitis, bursitis, dislocation and rotator cuff tear. Your shoulder is made up of three bones: the humerus, clavicle and scapula. The combination of these bones along with the tendons and muscles provide increase the likelihood of a shoulder injury. Mobility is another large factor that plays into shoulder pain. Because your shoulder has a wide range of motion, the opportunity to entrap a nerve or injure a muscle increases substantially.

How can my shoulder pain be treated?
One of the best ways to treat shoulder pain or a pinched nerve in your shoulder is by limiting the amount of movement and strain on that specific area of the body. Do not overexert yourself in physical activities that would put additional stress on your shoulder and could damage that particular area further. After you have given your shoulder the proper rest, you can start a routine of slowly stretching the muscles and tendons that surround that specific joint. Keep in mind that you do not want to stretch to the point of pain.

Some people find relief with a cold or hot compress. Topical creams combined with an anti-inflammatory, over-the-counter medication are also good options. In more extreme cases where pain persists, some people utilize Cortisone injections. Cortisone is a powerful medication that treats inflammation in different areas of the body.

When should I contact my doctor?
Always remember that only your doctor can diagnose and recommend particular forms of treatment for shoulder pain. Consult with your physician if your pain worsens or shoulder mobility decreases.

How could my doctor address my shoulder pain?

When treating shoulder pain, some tools that your doctor may use are a CT Scan, an MRI, X-Ray, Anthrogram and an Anthroscopy. Your doctor may also want to look into your medical history to see if there are any physiological reasons which would make you predisposed to shoulder pain or pinched nerves. Along with your medical history, your physician may also want to complete a physical examination or orthopedic evaluation to make sure there is not an existing shoulder injury and to check to see if you have a complete range of motion in your shoulder and arm.

How can I prevent shoulder pain?
Always remember that shoulder pain should be addressed on a progressive continuum starting with the most minimally invasive procedures. When other methods have been attempted with little or no success, it is important to talk with your doctor about other options including surgery. Some surgical procedures include an Androscopy, which involves inserting a pencil-thin device inside the joint allowing your doctor to make a diagnosis. Open surgery occurs when small incisions are made on your shoulder allowing the surgeon access to the shoulder or joint that is causing you trouble. A recovery period will follow either one of these procedures. Recovery periods vary depending on the individual and may include physical therapy.