What are the Most Common Causes of Shoulder Nerve Pain?

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  • Written By: Dan Cavallari
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 03 October 2019
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Shoulder nerve pain occurs when the nerves that service the shoulder and arms become compressed or otherwise damaged. Several nerve endings run through the arms and shoulders, and if any of these nerves are compromised, they may send sharp pains throughout the shoulder, neck, and arms. This condition is known as neuralgia and can occur in any part of the body. Shoulder nerve pain may be the result of a trauma or injury, compression in the spine, elevated stress levels that lead to muscle tightening or strain, and various conditions that lead to compression on or damage to the nerves.

Injuries and trauma very often lead to shoulder nerve pain. Athletes are especially susceptible to such shoulder nerve pain because the body is very often subjected to forces it cannot necessarily handle during sporting events. Compression of the spine is common among both athletes and non-athletes; this can occur when the spine compresses downward due to regular forces of gravity or excess downward movement during athletic activity. Such compression can lead to pressure on nerves that service the shoulders and arms, leading to shoulder nerve pain. Compression may also lead to a herniated disc in the spine, which can in turn compress the nerves servicing the shoulders.


Muscle tightness or strains can also lead to nerve pain. Weaker muscles are more susceptible to strain, since tired muscles tend to tighten. Tight muscles can cause compression on nerves, leading to nerve pain. Proper conditioning and regular exercise can help a person avoid muscle tightness, thereby avoiding one of the primary causes of nerve pain. Regular stretching exercises can also help muscles remain limber and loose, preventing nerve damage.

Abnormalities in the body can also lead to shoulder nerve pain. Bone spurs and tumors are two types of abnormalities that compress nerves or otherwise disrupt normal nerve function. Bone spurs are basically abnormal bone growths that can cause friction on other bones, ligaments, muscles, or tendons. They may also compress nerves in certain parts of the body. Tumors are abnormal growths that may or may not be cancerous. These growths are tough and fibrous, and they can take up enough room on certain parts of the body that normal functions are disrupted, leading to different types of pain. Tumors very often need to be surgically removed to alleviate pressure on nerves or other affected parts of the body.


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