If you're having pain, numbness or tingling down your arm, these exercises and stretches for a pinched nerve in the shoulder may help. Whether your condition stems from the cervical spine or nerve compression in the shoulder, find out what's causing your symptoms and what to do about it.
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Causes of Your Pinched Nerve
The symptoms of a pinched nerve are different from shoulder pain due to tendonitis or bursitis. A pinched nerve occurs when there is pressure on the nerve from surrounding tissues that disrupt its function, says the Mayo Clinic.
In addition to pain, you may experience tingling, numbness and weakness. If you have these symptoms, it's important you first see a doctor to find out the exact cause and where the nerve is being pinched.
Pain and numbness in your shoulder and hand can actually be coming from a pinched nerve in the neck, says the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. This is called cervical radiculopathy and it's often caused by degenerative changes that occur as you age. It can often be treated with conservative treatment, including neck exercises and medication.
Another cause might be thoracic outlet syndrome, which occurs when the blood vessels and nerves between your collarbone and first rib get compressed, according to the Mayo Clinic. This results in pain in your shoulder and neck, as well as numbness down to your fingers.
These symptoms can sometimes progress to reduced circulation in your arm, resulting in bluish hands or cold fingers. Many people with condition had physical trauma, like a car accident, repetitive injury from a job or even an anatomical defect.
Postural Stretches for Pinched Nerves
The following stretches for a pinched nerve in the shoulder may improve your flexibility and posture, says the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. This is important as it will help take the pressure off of the nerve. If any exercise makes your symptoms worse, stop and talk to your doctor. Do 10 repetitions for each stretch, holding for five seconds. Perform twice daily.
Move 1: Neck Retraction
- Pull your head back, keeping your jaw level.
- Retract your neck back, feeling a stretch at the back of your neck.
- Hold for five seconds.
Move 2: Corner Stretch
- Stand in a corner with your hands at shoulder height.
- Place each hand on a wall.
- Lean into the corner until you feel the chest stretch.
Move 3: Neck Stretch
- Place your left hand on your opposite temple and your right hand behind your back.
- Gently pull your head to your left shoulder until you feel a stretch along the right side of your neck.
- Repeat on the other side.
Move 4: Shoulder Rolls
- Shrug your shoulders up and down.
- Move your shoulders in circles.
Strengthen Your Neck and Shoulders
If you have a pinched nerve in the shoulder, exercises may help strengthen the muscles that support your shoulder and neck, reports a study published in the June 2018 issue of the journal Healthcare.
Read more: 5 Exercises to Relieve Shoulder Pain
These movements target the rotator cuff muscles, which is helpful in thoracic outlet syndrome. They may also strengthen the postural muscles and improve the symptoms of cervical radiculopathy. Perform these along with the stretches for a pinched nerve in the shoulder.
Move 1: Shoulder External Rotation
- Hold an exercise band with your arms bent at your sides.
- Rotate both arms out to the side.
- Perform two sets of 10 reps.
Move 2: Straight Arm Extension
- Use an exercise band or use cables at a gym.
- Hold one end and pull straight down to your body with your arm straight.
- Maintain good posture as you pull the band or cable straight back.
- Slowly return to starting position.
- Perform two sets of 10 repetitions.
Move 3: Standing Rows
- Hold both ends of an exercise band or cables at a gym.
- Pull back, with your elbows bent, squeezing your shoulder blades together.
- Perform two sets of 10 reps.
Move 4: Serratus Push
- Lie on your back, holding a light barbell above your chest. Keep your arms straight.
- Press up toward the ceiling, feeling your shoulder blade lift.
- Hold for three seconds. Perform two sets of 10.
- Mayo Clinic: "Pinched Nerve"
- American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons: "Cervical Radiculopathy (Pinched Nerve)"
- Mayo Clinic: "Thoracic Outlet Syndrome"
- Healthcare: "Thoracic Outlet Syndrome: Biomechanical and Exercise Considerations"
- American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons: "Thoracic Outlet Syndrome"