Shoulder Nerve Pain – What is It?

Shoulder Excercises

In sports, repetitive movement is more or less unavoidable. As a result, athletes are constantly running the risk of getting injured. Over time, factors like age, overuse—or sometimes both—catch up with our bodies and we are more likely to experience things like shoulder pain. Shoulder nerve pain, for example, is incredibly common. Athletes 50 years and older are likely to experience pinched nerves due to degeneration in the spine or arthritis.

Shoulder nerve pain arises when surrounding tissues like cartilage or tendons apply too much pressure onto a nerve. More specifically, pinched nerves occur when a nerve root in the neck is damaged either through wear and tear or an acute injury that leads to a herniated disk.

When you begin experiencing any kind of shoulder pain, the tricky part is figuring out what exactly the issue is. The symptoms that patients use to describe shoulder nerve pain have been known to overlap those from shoulder arthritis, frozen shoulder, swimmer’s shoulder, or rotator cuff tears, so it’s always best to consult with an orthopedic surgeon to understand what could be causing your shoulder pain.

How do you know if you have a pinched nerve?

It can be easy to confuse a pinched nerve in your shoulder with a variety of other shoulder injuries. As you seek medical consultation for your shoulder injury, take a look at the below breakdown of symptoms to compare:

Pinched nerve (Cervical radiculopathy):

  • Pain in the shoulder
  • “Pins and needles” feeling or tingling in fingers or hand
  • Weakness in shoulder and arm muscles

Shoulder arthritis:

  • Stiffness in the shoulder joint
  • Deep ache inside the shoulder
  • Grinding when the joint is moved

Frozen shoulder (adhesive capsulitis):

  • Stiffness in the shoulder joint
  • Pain in one shoulder
  • Decreased range of motion

Swimmer’s shoulder (shoulder impingement):

  • Pain in the shoulder
  • Weakness in the surrounding area/muscle
  • Stiffness in the shoulder joint
  • Decreased range of motion

Rotator cuff tears:

  • Pain when moving shoulder
  • Weakness in the arm muscle
  • Deep ache along the top and side of the joint

Treatment Options for Shoulder Nerve Pain

Do Neck Issues Cause Shoulder Pain?First things first, you’ll need to get a proper medical examination to determine what the cause of your shoulder pain is and the best course of treatment. Upon having a variety of tests and exams done to diagnose and pinpoint your injury, you’ll be asked about your health history and regular activities to understand the nature of your symptoms.

If the injury calls for conservative treatment, you should expect a recommendation for physical therapy, cortisone injections, massage therapy, and advice on how to maintain a healthy weight. The goal is to reduce pressure and tension from your nerves and muscles.

Cutting-Edge Orthopedic Treatment Options

Orthopedic surgeons—like Dr. Van Thiel—are well-equipped to treat degenerative conditions like shoulder arthritis that result in things like pinched shoulder nerves.

Performing shoulder arthroplasty surgery to replace the damaged portions of the shoulder joint, Dr. Van Thiel’s patients can restore function and get back to the active lifestyles they love.

A persistent injury can be indicative of a larger issue, so if you have shoulder pain that you can’t shake, get in touch with OrthoIllinois in Algonquin or Rockford for the best orthopedic care.


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