Treatment of Suprascapular Nerve Entrapment Syndrome

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Orthopedic Reviews


Shoulder pain and weakness. Treatment varies depending on the location and etiology of entrapment, which can be described as compressive or traction lesions. In some cases, treating the primary cause of impingement (ie. rotator cuff tear, ganglion cyst, etc.) is sufficient to relieve pressure on the nerve. In other cases where impingement is caused by dynamic microtrauma (as seen in overhead athletes and laborers), treatment is often more conservative. Conservative first-line therapy includes rehabilitation programs, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and lifestyle modification. Physical therapy is targeted at strengthening the rotator cuff muscles, trapezius, levator scapulae, rhomboids, serratus anterior, and deltoid muscle(s). If non-operative treatment fails to relieve suprascapular neuropathy, minimally invasive treatment options exist, such as suprascapular nerve injection, neurostimulation, cryoneurolysis, and pulsed radiofrequency. Multiple treatment modalities are often used synergistically due to variations in shoulder anatomy, physiology, pain response, and pathology as a sole therapeutic option does not seem successful for all cases. Often patients can be treated with non-invasive measures alone; however, injuries refractory to conservative treatment may require either arthroscopic or open surgery, particularly if the patient has an identifiable and reversible cause of nerve compression. Indications for invasive treatment include, but are not limited to, refractory to non-operative treatment, have a space-occupying lesion, or show severe signs and symptoms of muscle atrophy. Open decompression has fallen out of favor due to the advantages inherent in the less invasive arthroscopic approach.