The suprascapular nerve, which runs along the back of the shoulder and facilitates the function of the rotator cuff muscles, may require surgical decompression if it becomes painfully compressed or overstretched. This relatively uncommon condition, which is known as suprascapular neuropathy, sometimes occurs along with a severe rotator cuff tear. For instance, a massive rotator cuff tear may retract medially and stretch the nerve at transverse scapular notch causing further pain and weakness. If left long enough the muscles may degenerate and become filled with fat. Repair of the massive rotator cuff tear usually improves the nerve palsy and relieves the pain. This treatment can also halt the muscle degeneration and help restore shoulder function.
The suprascapular nerve can also become trapped by fibrous tissue, a bone fragment, a ganglion cyst or an enlarged vein. In addition to pain, suprascapular nerve entrapment can lead to profound shoulder weakness, especially in rotation.
How Is Suprascapular Neuropathy Treated?
Mild suprascapular neuropathy can sometimes be addressed conservatively with activity modifications, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and physical therapy, which may involve neural mobilization techniques to help restore full mobility of the nerve along its course.
In severe cases, chronic pressure may permanently damage the suprascapular nerve, resulting in a loss of shoulder muscle strength and function. Therefore, arthroscopic and open decompression surgery removes structures pressing on the nerve. Additionally, a surgeon may open up the notch in the scapula where the suprascapular nerve passes through it (transverse scapular and spinoglenoid notches). Shoulder ganglion cysts can arise from labral tears due to injuries during overhead sports. This type of nerve compression usually occurs at the spinglenoid notch and usually causes weakness in the infraspinatous muscle. Surgical repair of the labrum and decompression of the cyst can relive the symptoms and restore full function.
Explore Your Treatment Options With an Expert in Pittsburgh
The shoulder is a complex joint used during many daily activities. Therefore, a shoulder condition such as suprascapular neuropathy warrants specialty care. Widely considered to be an expert among experts, Christopher C. Schmidt, MD, is a board-certified orthopaedic surgeon who performs shoulder surgery in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. If you’d like to discuss your suprascapular nerve repair options with Dr. Schmidt, contact his office today at (877) 471-0935 to schedule an appointment at one of his three locations in Pittsburgh, PA.
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