Scapular nerve pain

Updated July 19, 2017

The nerves of the scapula, or shoulder blade, originate in the neck. Scapular nerve pain is typically the result of a pinched nerve in the cervical or neck area. Pain symptoms can range from radiating pain from the neck into the shoulder, and possibly down the arm, to isolated shoulder blade pain.

Scapula Basics

The scapula is a triangular-shaped bone which connects the humerus--the long bone of the upper arm--to the clavicle, or collarbone. The scapula allows for movement of the arm and shoulder in all planes, including rotation. Nerves from the neck stem out from the spinal column and travel down the body to control sensory abilities and function of the upper body, including the shoulder area.

Scapular Nerve Pain

Shoulder blade pain is frequently an indication of an impinged or pinched nerve in the neck due to injury or structural problems with the vertebral or spinal bones. Symptoms radiate or travel down the length of the nerve and cause pain in a different area. Scapular nerve pain stems from a nerve restriction in C7 to C8, the last two spinal bones in the lower cervical area closest to the shoulder.

Symptoms of Scapular Nerve Pain

Nerve irritation due to an impingement of the nerve in the lower portion of the neck can result in more than just pain. Pain and discomfort can begin at the occiput, or the base of the neck, and travel into the shoulder area, including the shoulder blade. The pain can also radiate into the eye area or into the upper arm. In severe cases, numbness and tingling can be experienced in the hand and fingers.

Treatment of Scapular Nerve Pain

Treatment of scapular nerve pain involves the management of inflammation causing the nerve restriction. Inflammation, or swelling, is the body's defence against injury. NSAIDs or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and painkillers may help ease symptoms. Nerve pain caused by muscle spasms may be relieved by releasing muscular tightness through stretching or massage techniques. In severe cases, injections of steroids into the area of nerve impingement may release tightness.

Management of Scapular Nerve Pain

Nerve problems commonly take several weeks to several months to heal. The best management of nerve pain is prevention through a regular stretching and exercise program, and stress-reduction techniques. Exercise routines which incorporate the mind as well as the body, such as yoga, and regular massage sessions can be beneficial in relieving pain symptoms and releasing tight or knotted muscles while providing an overall relaxation.

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About the Author

Sandra Koehler is a physical therapy assistant and massage therapist with over 20 years of experience in pain management and physical rehabilitation. She has been a health and wellness freelance writer for over eight years and her work has been featured in publications such as "Living Without" and "Advance," and online at sites including WAHM, She Knows and