Pinched Nerve in the Shoulder? Try These Stretches and Exercises

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Image Credit: Strelciuc Dumitru/iStock/GettyImages

Just like a stiff lower back, pain from a pinched nerve in your shoulder is absolutely no joke. And if you're experiencing any discomfort, numbness or tingle down your arm, nerve pinch may be the culprit.

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Luckily, there are a few stretches and exercises that may help alleviate your discomfort. Read on to learn 3 different stretches and exercises you can try right at home.

Warning

Before you try any of these stretches or exercises, make sure to consult a doctor to be professionally diagnosed. A medical expert can help tailer a treatment plan that's best for your personal body.

Causes of Your Pinched Shoulder Nerve

The symptoms of a pinched nerve are different from shoulder pain due to tendonitis or bursitis. A pinched nerve in the shoulder occurs when there is pressure on the nerve from surrounding tissues that disrupt its function, says the Mayo Clinic.

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Alongside pain, you may experience tingling, numbness or weakness. If you experience these symptoms, see a doctor at your earliest convenience to find the exact cause and nerve that's pinched.

Sometimes, what feels like a pinched nerve in your shoulder blade is actually a pinch in the neck that's radiating down and out, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. This is a cervical radiculopathy and it's often caused by age-related body changes. This condition can often be treated by a professional with including neck exercises and potentially medication.

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Another cause might be thoracic outlet syndrome, which happens 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.

Postural Stretches for Pinched Nerves in the Shoulder

The following stretches for a pinched nerve in the shoulder may improve your flexibility and posture, per the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. This is important, as it will help take 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, twice daily.

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1. Doorway Pec Stretch

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Skill Level All Levels
Activity Stretching
  1. Start by standing in a doorway.
  2. Raise your right arm out to the side, elbow in line with the shoulder.
  3. Keeping the elbow in place, press your inner forearm and palm agains the side of the doorway.
  4. Holding the arm here, step forward on your left foot and lean your chest forward.
  5. Hold here for 30 seconds.
  6. Repeat this move on each side, three rounds total.

2. Neck Stretch

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Skill Level All Levels
Activity Stretching
  1. Place your left hand on your opposite temple, back flat.
  2. Gently pull your head to your left shoulder until you feel a stretch along the right side of your neck.
  3. Repeat on the other side.

3. Shoulder CAR

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Skill Level All Levels
Activity Stretching
  1. Sit in a half-kneeling position with your left leg bent at 90 degrees and your right knee on the floor.
  2. Keep your neck in a neutral position and brace your core.
  3. With your right arm straight, begin to rotate your shoulder up and around as if your arm were a large compass drawing a circle.
  4. Continue this motion for 60 seconds, then switch sides.

Tip

If you aren't able to lift your arms straight overhead, you can try a simple shoulder roll. Shrugging your shoulders into your ears and roll them back and down.

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.

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.

1. External Shoulder Rotation

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Skill Level Beginner
Activity Resistance Band Workout
  1. Attach a resistance band to a sturdy object at torso height. Stand so that it's on your right.
  2. Grasp the free end of the band with your left hand and take several steps away from the anchor point until the band is taught. The band should cross in front of your body.
  3. Stand tall with your left elbow bent to 90 degrees and pressed against your side with a rolled towel between your elbow and body.
  4. Starting with your forearm diagonally across your body, pull the band away from the anchor to your side while keeping your elbow tight to your side.
  5. Pause, then slowly return to the band in front of you.
  6. Do all reps, then switch sides.

Tip

Beginners should do their external rotations with light resistance at the start. Keep your elbow as still as possible and start using more resistance as you gain strength.

2. Resistance Band Bent-Over Row

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Skill Level Beginner
Activity Resistance Band Workout
  1. Step both feet on the center of the band so your feet are hip-width apart. Grip one end of the band in each hand down at your sides.
  2. Keep your back flat as you hinge forward at the waist and pull your elbows back. Squeeze your shoulder blades together at the top and pause.
  3. Return to start, keeping constant tension in the band.

3. Serratus Wall Slide With Resistance Band

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Skill Level Intermediate
Activity Resistance Band Workout
  1. Take a resistance band and wrap it around your back and loop each end into a thumb.
  2. It should sit below your shoulder blades in the back and wrap on top of your forearms.
  3. Place your forearms against the wall at 90-degree angles, thumbs pointing back.
  4. Push into the wall to spread your shoulder blades apart.
  5. Tighten your core and think about pulling your ribcage down.
  6. Slide your arms up and down the wall, keeping your arms pushed into the wall and your shoulder blades apart.

Tip

If the resistance band version of this move feels too challenging, you can start with a standard serratus wall slide. Then, gradually progress the exercise as you grow stronger.

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