A pinched nerve in the shoulder is caused by the repetitive motion of a nerve in the shoulder compressing or holding your body in one position for too long. You will need to rest your shoulder and give it time to heal, but you can relieve the pain with over-the-counter medications and ice packs. If your doctor thinks it is necessary, they will recommend oral corticosteroids, steroid injections, physical therapy, or other treatments for your pinched nerve. Surgery is only needed in rare cases when scar tissue, disc material, or bone is pressing on a nerve. In this article, we’ll look at how to treat a pinched nerve in your shoulder.
How to treat a pinched nerve in your shoulder
- Rest and avoid using your shoulder. Do not move your shoulder to avoid pain, but also to give your shoulder time to heal. In particular, you should stop doing any activity that may have caused the pinched nerve.
- For example, a pinched nerve in your shoulder could be caused by doing a hard lift while cleaning the house.
- Sleeping on one side can cause nerve compression if you press too hard on your shoulder. Changing sides or sleeping on your back can help prevent further damage.
- Take an anti-inflammatory medication. Aspirin or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen or naproxen, can reduce pain caused by a pinched nerve. You should talk to your doctor about which ones are best for you, especially if you are taking other medications. For example, you may be advised not to take aspirin if you are on any blood-thinning medications.
- Place an ice pack on your shoulder. Wrap a commercial ice bag, packed ice cubes in a plastic bag, or even a bag of frozen vegetables in a towel. Keep it on your shoulder for 10 to 15 minutes for some cool relief. Do not apply ice directly to the skin, as this can lead to damage and further pain.
- Adjust your posture so you don’t put pressure on your shoulder. When sitting or standing, try to keep your shoulders and not hunching forward. Humping can stop blood flow to the nerve, making the problem worse. If you can’t keep your shoulder pulled back, you can buy a shoulder brace to fix the position. When you are resting in bed, place your hands on the pillow, and keep your shoulders relaxed.
- How to treat a pinched nerve in the shoulder – Do shoulder stretches. Just try to shrug your shoulders to your ears when your feet are firmly on the ground. Do this 5 to 10 times to stretch the pinched nerve. You can also do shoulder circles where you turn your shoulder up towards your ears and then backward 5 to 10 times clockwise. Try to do these stretches at least once a day to relieve stress in the area.
Getting professional treatment
- Oral corticosteroids. Your doctor may prescribe corticosteroid injections or pills to help relieve pain and swelling caused by your pinched nerve. He may also suggest that you take pain relievers. Always follow your doctor’s instructions for dosage and never take more than the recommended amount.
Side effects of corticosteroids include increased blood sugar levels and an increased risk of infection. They are most common when medicine is used long term.
- Wear a shoulder brace. This will restrict movement so your shoulder can heal faster. The doctor will tell you how long to wear it.
- Work with a physical therapist. The therapist can design a specific exercise program to strengthen and stretch the muscles and relieve pressure on the pinched nerve. Because repetitive or stressful movements can sometimes cause pinched nerves, these exercises are often an important part of the healing process.
- How to treat a pinched nerve in your shoulder – Get a deep tissue massage from a trained massage therapist. Let your massage therapist know that you have a pinched nerve in your shoulder before starting your session. They can then act on the release of tension and pain in the shoulder and neck to resolve your condition.
- Operation if necessary. Surgery is usually only used to treat a pinched nerve if other treatments do not improve after a few weeks or months. Doctors will decide if a surgical procedure works on the pinched nerve more beneficial than other treatments.
Surgery can be used if bone, disc, or scar tissue is pinching a nerve, or if there is a wound associated with the pinched nerve. Before surgery, your doctor will ask you about any medications you are taking or any medical conditions you have. They will also give you the opportunity to ask questions. Be sure to ask your doctor about how to care for your shoulder after surgery.