Nerve Injuries

nerve injuries patient education

Referred pain from the cervical spine (neck) may masquerade as shoulder pain. Classic cervical pain is felt at the back of the neck with radiation to the back of the shoulder whereas rotator cuff related shoulder pain is felt on the side of the arm. The best way to differentiate one from the other is in-fact detailed clinical assessment, although scans are a useful adjunct. Occasionally, cervical and shoulder problems co-exist.


The suprascapular nerve innervates the supraspinatus and infraspinatus (part of the rotator cuff) and may be compressed by pathologies along it’s course. Patients may present with pain and weakness. Early diagnosis leading onto identification of the level of compression may lead onto a successful surgical management in the form of decompression.


Axillary nerve supplies the Deltoid, which is one of the most important muscles around the shoulder. Injuries to the axillary nerve following fractures, dislocations or surgical treatment may have devastating implications on the final outcome. Such injuries may be managed operatively with nerve repair or expectantly with a wait and watch policy depending on the individual circumstances.


One of the most dramatic conditions involving rapid loss of function of the shoulder is neuralgic amyotrophy. Although the cause of this is unknown it is associated with a painful onset, followed by profound weakness of the musculature of the shoulder girdle. Due to it’s relatively rarity, the diagnosis is often delayed. It is best diagnosed by clinical assessment, coupled with neurophysiological studies. A small subset of patients may benefit from early specialist neurological therapy.

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