A quick guide on the best exercises for pinched nerve in shoulder.
What is a Pinched Nerve?
When it comes to shoulder pain, activities of daily living seem like a big task. Whether it be combing hair or undressing, pain always hinders the work.
Being ignorant of such pain can lead to a bigger problem. One of the most common conditions that lead to shoulder pain could be Pinched Nerve.
Every nerve has a root originating from the spinal cord and then travels through the nerve plexus to supply a particular muscle group. When this nerve root gets compressed, it leads to a set of signs and symptoms.
A pinched nerve in the shoulder will show the following symptoms:
1. Neck Pain
Neck pain can be disturbing, and the intensity keeps on varying. The pain increases on strenuous work.
2. A decrease in the range of motion
A decrease in the range of motion of the hand makes it difficult to reach things overhead.
3. Pins and needles sensation
Pins and needles sensation is a hallmark of neural involvement.
4. The tingling sensation
The tingling sensation is usually felt in the hands.
5. Stiffness in the arm
Stiffness in the arms makes the hand rigid and heavy.
6. Decreased sensation
Decreased sensation makes it difficult to feel hot and cold substances along with any external stimulus.
Difficulty in lifting weight or any heavy object eventually occurs.
7. Decrease in muscle girth
It is also known as muscular atrophy, which is a common sign.
8. Burning sensation
Some people may also feel this type of sensation in the palm periodically.
9. Muscle weakness
Muscle weakness is caused due to muscular atrophy, which makes it difficult to lift heavy objects and carry out day-to-day activities.
10. Dry and thin skin
This is caused due to improper nutrition to the skin, atrophy of the muscles, and a decrease in muscle size.
What causes a pinched nerve in the shoulder?
A pinched nerve occurs due to various reasons. Some of the common reasons are listed below:
- Compression of the nerve root by the surrounding tissues
- Tightness of neck muscles
- Entrapment of the nerve by the surrounding bony structures
- Age-related degeneration of the structures
- Overuse injury
- Congenital deformity
- Sudden movement
- Incorrect posture
- Slip disc
- Compressed nerve
- Nerve root inflammation
- Fracture of the shoulder girdle bones
- Persistent pressure on the nerve root
- Cervical radiculopathy
- Nerve damage
How to treat a pinched nerve?
To relieve pain caused due to a pinched nerve, one must first release the pressure over the nerve root. Physical therapy has proven to help release the pressure over the nerve root.
A trained physical therapist assesses the condition and prescribes the best exercises addressing the particular condition.
They prescribe you specific exercises for a pinched nerve in the shoulder according to the severity of the condition.
Depending upon the presenting symptom, the exercises can be undertaken, and instant relief from the pain can be experienced.
Along with exercises, other treatments are:
Ice provides instant relief from neck pain and shoulder pain. It is easy to use and apply. It also helps decrease muscle tightness. Ice packs are placed over the affected area.
2. Oral corticosteroids
They are easily available but have long-term side effects. They provide relief from pinched nerve symptoms, mainly the pain.
3. Improve posture
Correct body posture along with an ergonomic workstation helps prevent irritation to the nerves and the formation of pinched nerves.
Avoid keeping the arms straight for a prolonged time.
Keep the neck straight and avoid bending of the neck as it leads to pinched nerves. While starting any exercise, maintain the starting position and posture of the body.
Older individuals are more prone to developing pinched nerves due to age-related degeneration.
Avoid performing sudden movements like sudden head turns while doing any exercises, as it leads to pinched nerves and tissue damage.
If pinched nerve results from a fracture or trauma, allow the wound to heal properly, as any damage may lead to a delay in the healing process.
Any pain or numbness or pins and needles sensations should not be ignored. These are the classic symptoms of pinched nerves.
If the symptoms persist for a longer time, seek proper treatment and see a physician that shall provide medical advice.
Certain exercises help relieve the pressure over the pinched nerve. So, let’s check them out.
Best Exercises for Pinched Nerve in Shoulder
Exercises for pinched nerve in shoulder aids in the release of the trapped nerve.
The exercises involve simple head turn, use of wands and towels, proper alignment of the body.
Stretching of the muscles helps increase the blood flow, increases the range of motion, and elongates the muscle group.
Exercises for pinched nerve in shoulder are easy to do.
Following exercises are gentle exercises that require precision and guidance.
1. Exercise name – Cross Chest Stretch or Triceps Stretch
Position – Sitting or standing
- Step 1- Stand in a position as if taking a pledge while taking up the affected hand.
- Step 2- Fold the arm from the elbow and place the hand on the opposite shoulder.
- Step 3- Keep the other hand on the elbow and gently press it towards the chest.
- Step 4- Hold this for about 10 to 15 seconds and repeat for at least 5 times.
2. Exercise name – Trapezius Stretch or Sideway Stretch
Position- Standing or Sitting
- Step 1- Stand straight or sit on the chair with the spine erect and shoulder blades retracted.
- Step 2- Place the hand of the affected side on the opposite elbow from behind.
- Step 3- Now touch the ear to the shoulder of the same side by slowly bending the neck.
- Step 4 – You will feel the stretch along with the trapezius muscle and the lateral neck muscles.
- Step 5- Hold the stretch for about a few seconds and repeat it about 5 times on each side.
This could be a self stretch or assisted one.
3. Exercise Name – Wall Washing or Window Washing Exercise
- Step 1- Stand in front of the wall.
- Step 2- Now raise the hand to the top and assume a position to wipe the wall or a window.
- Step 3- Move the hand to draw a half-circle.
- Step 4- Slowly keep on moving the hand and the stretch in the back and neck muscles.
- Step 5- Repeat this about 5 times and at least 3 times a day.
- Step 6- Do this with both hands for maximum effect.
4. Exercise Name – Gear Shift
Position- Sitting on a comfortable chair
- Step 1- Sit on a chair with your body straight
- Step 2- Hold the stick on the affected side.
- Step 3- Place the stick on the ground straight.
- Step 4- Now move the stick as if changing the gear making the arm straight, slowly and steadily feeling the stretch in hand.
- Step 5- Move the hand in this direction 5 times and repeat this 3 times a day.
5. Exercise Name – Wand Exercise or Pectoralis Stretch
Position – Standing or sitting
This exercise requires a piece of cloth or a regular stick
- Step 1- Sit or stand with the body straight
- Step 2- Hold a piece of cloth in both hands behind the neck
- Step 3- Now pull the cloth in the opposite direction and hold
- Step 4- Feel the stretch in the chest muscles
- Step 5- Hold this for about 10 secs and repeat it for 3 times
6. Exercise Name – Shoulder rolls
Position- Stand against the wall
- Step 1 – Stand against the wall with the back facing towards the wall.
- Step 2- Keep a rolled towel or a ball between the shoulder and the wall.
- Step 3- Now roll the towel against the wall either sideways or up and down.
- Step 4- Do this about 5 times and keep on changing the direction for maximum effect.
7. Exercise Name – Wall Pushup
Position- Stand facing towards the wall
- Step 1 – Stand against the wall and take a pushup position.
- Step 2- Keep your legs in line with the shoulders.
- Step 3 – Do wall pushups and try to press the chest against the wall
This exercise has multiple benefits, including pectoral stretch, triceps, and biceps stretch, which helps increase muscle strength and maintain coordination of the shoulder girdle muscles.
Along with these exercises, practicing yoga also helps relieve pain and the symptoms of the pinched nerve. Yoga also helps correct the position and tone of the muscles. Regular practice of yoga provides a drastic effect when done under proper guidance.
Yoga poses that can be practiced are:
- Child pose
- Cat and cow
- Superman position
- Pelvic bridging
- Cobra pose
In a nutshell, along with proper medical advice, exercises for pinched nerve in the shoulder can be very effective and thus help manage the symptoms.
However, severe cases may need surgical decompression. So, it’s always better to consult a doctor first.
Do perform these exercises for pinched nerve in shoulder, and see the results yourself.
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Content is medically reviewed periodically by professionals for accuracy and relevance. Reviewers include doctors, nurses, mental health professionals, and even medical students.