3 Exercises To Relieve Pinched Nerve Pain In Shoulder Blade

Do You Get Pinched Nerve Pain In Your Shoulder Blade?

Watch this video to learn 3 exercises to relieve pinched nerve pain in the shoulder blade.

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What Causes Pinched Nerve Pain In The Shoulder Blade?

When most people refer to nerve pain in their shoulder, they may mean several things:

Regardless of what type of nerve pain you get in your shoulder, the 3 exercises are probably going to help out to at least some extent.

That's because all of the nerves to your arm and shoulder come out of your neck.

Pinched Nerve In Neck Exercises

Next, they run through an area called your brachial plexus, which runs underneath your collarbone and over the top of your first rib.

That's a very narrow space.

Sometimes the brachial plexus can get pinched in that area, which is referred to as thoracic outlet syndrome.

Thoracic Outlet Syndrome

So the first two exercises are going to address that neck and first rib components causing neve pain in the shoulder blade.

Exercise 1: First Rib Mobilization

For this exercise, you'll use a stretching strap to hold your first rib down.

You can also use a dog leash, a bed sheet, or a towel.

Use something that's narrow and firm. You don't want to use a stretch band.

Placing the stretching strap

You'll take this stretching strap and sit on one end of it.

Put it underneath your bottom and then bring the other part over the top of your shoulder.

It's important to bring it as close to your neck as possible, kind of like if you were putting on a seatbelt.

You'd want it to pull towards the opposite hip like a seatbelt.

Make sure you're not putting this strap over your the tip of your shoulder.  By doing that, you'd be pulling the collarbone down and compressing the brachial plexus.

Next do a gentle side tilt of your head.

Exercise to relive pinched nerve pain in shoulder blade

You don't have to go as far as possible.

You really don't want to feel it down in the shoulder where you're having the nerve pain or anywhere further down the arm.

You should actually feel this in the muscles in the neck right here because what you're doing is using this strap to hold the first rib down.

This secures the first rib, and then you'll stretch the scalene muscles that attach to that first rib.

Interestingly, the nerves of your brachial plexus run through the scalene muscles as well.

So this is a good exercise for multiple reasons.

Typically, I would recommend doing 10, 15, or 20 repetitions.

Exercise 2: Arm Overhead Reaching

The second exercise is particularly useful if you have one shoulder blade lower than the other.

When your shoulder blade is lower, it brings your collarbone down, compresses the brachial plexus, and overstretches the nerve roots.

If you look in the mirror and notice that your sore shoulder is lower than the other one, this is a great exercise for you.

First, put your sore arm up in the air and reach it up as high as you can.

Then go slightly across to the other side.

Unique Neck And Shoulder Pain Stretch

This stretches the muscles underneath your shoulder blade. It also puts the nerve bundle in your shoulder on slack.

It's more of a sustained stretch, so hold it for about 30 seconds if you can tolerate that.

If your shoulder and arm are too sore, just do it as long as you can comfortably.

If you have nerve pain in both shoulders, reach both arms up in the air, allow your shoulders to shrug.

Both arms overhead stretch for pinched nerve pain in shoulder blade

Or slide them up a wall.

Both arms overhead stretch for pinched nerve pain in shoulder blade (wall slide)

It's an alternative version if you have nerve pain in both shoulders.

Exercise 3: Nerve Glides

The third exercise is to get movement and blood flow in the nerves.

The nerves run down your arm into your fingertips.

Next, we'll explore different nerve glide variations to achieve movement and improved blood flow without irritating your symptoms.

There are several versions of these nerve glides.

Median Nerve Glide Exercise

The median nerve runs down your arm and into the first three fingers, the same fingers where people often experience carpal tunnel syndrome.

To perform the median nerve glide, put your arm up in a slack position.

Median nerve glide exercise for pinched nerve pain in shoulder

Then move it into a more tensioned position.

Median nerve glide exercise for pinched nerve pain in shoulder

This should not aggravate your symptoms.

Make sure to only move through a comfortable range of motion.

Ulnar Nerve Glide Exercise

The ulnar nerve glide is for nerve pain down the inner side of your arm, affecting the last two fingers.

You perform it by moving into a position like carrying a tray.

Ulnar nerve glide exercise for pinched nerve pain in shoulder

Then move back out of that position.

Ulnar nerve glide exercise for pinched nerve pain in shoulder

This movement should not aggravate your symptoms and can be adjusted for comfort.

Radial Nerve Glide Exercise

If you have nerve pain in the back of the shoulder or down the back of the arm, the radial nerve glide may be good for you.

Start by touching your shoulder.

Radial nerve glide exercise for pinched nerve pain in shoulder

Then perform the nerve glide as if you're passing something behind your back.

Radial nerve glide exercise for pinched nerve pain in shoulder

This exercise is sometimes referred to as "tip the waiter" because of the position of your arm.

Move back and forth through a comfortable range of motion.

Tips For Severe Nerve Pain In Shoulder Blade

If your nerve pain is extremely irritable pain, supporting or elevating your arm can be helpful.

Even the weight of your arm can be uncomfortable for severe nerve pain.

Elevate your arm on a pillow or an armrest. Or place it in your pocket when possible can alleviate the pressure of gravity pulling it down.

This reduces tension on the nerve roots and brachial plexus.

Nerve glides moving neck only

If your nerve pain is too irritable to move your arm, you can start with the little neck tilt exercise using the strap.

Opposite arm nerve glides

Alternatively, move the opposite arm in the same patterns for median nerve, ulnar nerve, and radial nerve glides.

This helps your nervous system learn that movement is safe, reducing irritability.

It's important to identify the underlying cause of your nerve pain, whether it's in the neck, brachial plexus, or due to poor posture.

Getting Help For Nerve Pain In The Shoulder

Seeing a physical therapist, especially an orthopedic manual physical therapist, can help determine the cause and provide tailored treatment.

If you're in the St. Louis area, we'd be happy to help you at More 4 Life.

Just tap the button below to request an appointment with one of our orthopedic manual physical therapists.

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