Suprascapular Nerve Entrapment

Suprascapular nerve entrapment happens when the important suprascapular nerve gets squeezed or irritated. This nerve controls the muscles that let you move your shoulder joint. The problem often occurs in the notch area of the shoulder blade where the nerve passes through. If this nerve gets compressed, it can lead to shoulder pain, weakness, and difficulty lifting your arm overhead.

While not as common as some other nerve issues, suprascapular nerve entrapment can really impact your quality of life. It's crucial to get medical care promptly to prevent long-lasting problems. Left untreated, you may deal with chronic shoulder pain, weakness, and reduced function.


Several non-surgical interventions are available to address suprascapular nerve entrapment. When conservative measures prove insufficient, surgical interventions may be necessary. Your treatment approach will depend on the cause and severity of the entrapment.


Non-Surgical Treatments


Medications like non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen or naproxen, can reduce inflammation and pain. 

Physical Therapy

Physical therapists employ a combination of exercises, stretches, and manual techniques to strengthen the muscles surrounding the shoulder, alleviate nerve compression, and enhance posture. 

Steroid Injection

This procedure involves injecting corticosteroids directly into the affected area around the suprascapular nerve. The anti-inflammatory properties of steroids can help reduce swelling and alleviate discomfort, providing temporary relief. 


Surgical Treatments

Nerve Decompression Surgery

This surgical procedure involves identifying the ligament that is compressing the suprascapular nerve and releasing it. Other causes such as bone, scar tissue, or cysts, may also need to be eliminated. Decompressing the nerve provides more space for it to move freely without irritation.

Nerve Graft Surgery

This procedure involves taking a section of healthy nerve tissue, often the sural nerve from the leg, and grafting it to bridge the damaged section of the injured suprascapular nerve. This helps regenerate the nerve fibers and restore nerve functionality over time.

Nerve Transfer Surgery

During this surgery, a surgeon transfers part of a working nerve close to the suprascapular nerve, often part of the spinal accessory nerve, and connects it to the branches of the suprascapular nerve to restore function. This nerve transfer helps reinnervate the rotator cuff muscles. This is often necessary for specific kinds of brachial plexus injuries.

Tendon Transfer Surgery

This surgery takes a working tendon and transfers it to attach to the rotator cuff muscles weakened by the compressed suprascapular nerve. This helps restore movement and function to the shoulder joint.

Why Patients Trust the Center for Hand & Upper Extremity Surgery

The Center for Hand and Upper Extremity is a highly specialized practice comprised of some of the most experienced nerve and tendon surgeons in the world. Our advanced out-patient surgery centers are led by renowned orthopedic, plastic, and reconstructive surgeons who specialize exclusively in hand and upper limb disorders and perform hundreds of nerve procedures every year. We utilize the latest microsurgical techniques and advanced imaging technology to precisely locate and treat nerve compressions. Our standard of surgical care has no equal when it comes to restoring confidence, independence, and comfort.

When to Seek Medical Attention

 If you experience persistent shoulder pain, weakness, or discomfort radiating to the upper back or shoulder blade, it is advisable to seek medical attention for possible suprascapular nerve entrapment. Additionally, if you notice a gradual decrease in shoulder strength, especially during overhead activities, or if you observe any unusual sensations such as numbness or tingling in the shoulder region, prompt medical evaluation is crucial. Early intervention enhances the likelihood of successful management and the restoration of optimal shoulder function.

Real people. Real results.

Meet Trevor,

Who underwent decompression surgery to release the suprascapular nerve in his shoulder. 

Trevor, a young baseball player, suffered from relentless shoulder pain for over a year that doctors struggled to diagnose until he sought help from Dr. Elkwood. To alleviate Trevor's pain and allow him to play baseball again, Dr. Elkwood performed surgery to release the compressed nerve in his shoulder.

Frequently Asked Questions

What causes suprascapular nerve entrapment?

Common causes include repetitive shoulder motions, traumatic injury, cysts or tumors compressing the nerve, and anatomical shoulder abnormalities like a smaller suprascapular notch. Many cases do not have an identifiable cause other than the ligament itself crushing the nerve. 

What are the risk factors for developing this condition?

Repetitive overhead motions, older age, shoulder trauma/fractures, and genetic factors like a small notch increase risk. Sports like baseball, volleyball, tennis raise chances.

How is suprascapular nerve entrapment diagnosed?

Doctors examine symptoms and use tests like electromyography, nerve conduction studies, MRI or CT scans to visualize nerve compression. In nearly all cases, an image guided steroid injection will be utilized to help diagnose the condition.

What is the long-term prognosis after treatment?

With proper treatment, many patients see significant improvement in pain and function. However, nerve damage can be permanent if untreated long-term. Physical therapy often continues after surgery.

How long does recovery take after surgery?

Recovery time varies by procedure but can take several weeks to months. Following postoperative instructions speeds healing.

Can this condition recur after treatment?

It is possible for nerve compression to recur if the underlying cause, like a cyst or anatomy, compresses the nerve again. Appropriate treatment reduces recurrence risk.

HUES Surgeons

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