Is Your Shoulder Pain the Result of a Nerve Injury?

Shoulder pain, whether constant or sporadic, is horrendous. This pain can be severe and spring up out of the blue. A decrease in your range of motion and stiffness may also happen. Sometimes shoulder pain can extend to the neck. And sometimes, it’s so bad that it interferes with your ability to perform your normal activities.   

Most of us attribute this pain to an injury or muscle overuse. But, did you know your shoulder pain might be a symptom of a nerve injury? It’s more common than you might think.  

Signs and Symptoms of a Nerve Injury in the Shoulders

The third leading bone and muscle complaint in the United States is shoulder pain. Most of us think that our shoulder pain is because of soft tissues, like the biceps or the rotator cuff muscles. If not, it’s because of a joint issue, like bursitis or osteoarthritis. But there might be another variable at play.

Several nerves populate that area. They run from the neck down to your fingers. One of these nerves might be the culprit. If it’s a nerve injury that’s causing your shoulder pain, your symptoms might also include:  

  • Loss of strength and muscle weakness
  • Poor balance when walking, reaching, and standing
  • Cuts heal slower in that area
  • The condition of the nails and skin changes
  • Less awareness of your arm or shoulder movements or position
  • Tingling, burning, or numbness in the area

What Causes Nerve Pain Around the Shoulders?

 Some nerves around the shoulder that get injured the most are the:  

 Other causes of nerve pain around the shoulder are:

  • Infection
  • Trauma
  • Inflammation
  • Overstretching
  • Prolonged postures

A Simple Trick to Help Diagnose a Median Nerve Injury

There are several simple at-home techniques to see if your shoulder pain is because of a nerve injury. Let’s say you’re experiencing pain in the front part of your shoulder. There’s a chance your shoulder pain is because of a median nerve injury. You can test this theory with these steps:  

  • Lift your injured arm and bend the elbow to 90 degrees
  • Turn your wrist in such a way that your palm is facing the sky. Point your fingers away from you.
  • Take your time and fully extend your elbow. Your fingers should point at the ground.
  • Bend your head to the opposite side of your injured arm. If the pain gets worse, you likely have a median nerve injury.

Nerve Pain Treatments

It’s important to see a nerve injury specialist if you suspect you are suffering from nerve pain. It’s the best way to get the most accurate diagnosis and effective plan of treatment. Specialists use nerve conduction tests to help diagnose the severity of the problem. They also help determine the best course of treatment.

It’s also important to understand that recovery from nerve injury takes time. Some nerves heal quickly while others take at least a year to heal. Still, some never heal fully. For instance, you can start seeing improvement in mild nerve injuries in about 6 weeks to 2 months. Severe injuries can also take a couple of years. The type of treatment you receive depends on the severity of the nerve injury. Most of the time, the most effective treatment is physical therapy. This includes, but is not limited to:  

Nerve injuries in the shoulder are awful. But accurate diagnosis and effective treatment can improve your condition drastically. If you are in Pennsylvania, our experts at Cawley Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation can help you make a full recovery. We will pinpoint the cause of your shoulder pain and get you on the road to recovery. Email or call 570-208-2787 today to find out how.