Suprascapular nerve is a mixed (sensory and motor) nerve that arises from the upper trunk of the brachial plexus. The nerve travels through the suprascapular notch beneath the superior transverse scapular ligament (STSL) of the shoulder and supplies the supraspinatus and infraspinatus muscles. Both the muscles are part of a group of muscles called the “rotator cuff”. The primary function of these muscles is to help arm movements at the shoulder joint.
Any injury or trauma to the suprascapular nerve results in suprascapular neuropathy.
Suprascapular Neuropathy is a condition of shoulder pain associated with weakness. It is a common problem in overhead athletes who perform repetitive overhead motions or throwing such as swimming, volley ball, tennis, and weightlifting.
Signs and symptoms
- Shoulder pain and weakness
- Atrophy (shrinkage) of upper shoulder muscles
- Heaviness of shoulder and arm
- Radiating pain to the neck, back or arm
- Discomfort in shoulder and upper back
- Entrapment of the nerve at the suprascapular and spinoglenoid notch
- Sometimes, an underlying ganglion cyst may exert pressure on the nerve
- Nerve compression due to traction injury of the nerve from blunt trauma, broken scapula bones, and a rotator cuff tear
- Repetitive stretching of the nerve
- Rarely, virus infection or vaccine administration
The diagnosis of suprascapular neuropathy is based on medical history and physical examination. Your doctor may order a few tests to rule out other causes of shoulder pain. These include
- Electrodiagnostic tests such as EMG (Electromyogram) and NCS (Nerve Conduction Studies) to evaluate the nerve and muscle functions.
- MRI scans demonstrate the size and location of the ganglion cyst and detect muscle atrophy.
- Activity modification: Avoid triggering activities that precipitate the symptoms.
- Your doctor may prescribe medications to help reduce pain and inflammation.
- Physical therapy exercises to improve the shoulder strength and range of motion.
Arthroscopic decompression of the suprascapular nerve is a surgical procedure in which the compressed nerve is released to relieve pain.