Shoulder pain and weakness after surgery

Hey everyone, I am new here. I will be sharing my story here soon but had a question in the meantime. I had surgery 7 weeks ago and have had no relief of my symptoms so far. One of the issues is that my shoulder is weak and I am having “winging” of my shoulder blade. I can’t lift my left arm above my head.

I know it is probably because of my accessory nerve being stretched for some time. My surgery took about 3 hours so I am guessing mine was just stretched for much longer than most. Curious if anyone else has had this issue before and if it resolved. Trying to get into PT to help but it has been taking a long time for my doctor to get the referral office to call me. Anyone with any experience on this, please help! I am miserable and could use some info on how to help it. Thanks!

Are you able to do nerve conduction study/EMG?

Hi @Millcf,

Welcome to our forum! I’m glad you found us. I’m really glad the surgery helped w/ most of your ES symptoms but am sorry to read about your shoulder. Did you have the shoulder weakness prior to your ES surgery? Shoulder weakness/winging scapula can be corrected w/ PT & time unless there is severe nerve damage. We have learned from many testimonies here that the longer a nerve has been affected by ES, the longer it can take to recover once the source of irritation is removed. I had some nerve related symptoms that took more than a year to recover. That said, they weren’t intense for that whole time but gradually disappeared.

Since it sounds like your shoulder issue is unchanged after almost 2 mos, following the advice given by @vdm to see a neurologist & request a nerve conduction study would be worthwhile. That would help you to know the degree of nerve dysfunction & perhaps give you a better idea of how to proceed with treating your shoulder.

I will probably have to request that. Is a neurologist normally the one I would go to get that done?

That is very good to hear about how long it might take. I did not have this issue before surgery so it hit me really hard when I couldn’t move my arm at all after surgery. My best guess is that the issue was from being stretched out for so long and caused it to be an issue. I will see if my doctor can do a nerve conduction study as was mentioned as well. That will give auch better picture as to what I am dealing with. Thank you!

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Neurologist, orthopedic surgeon, sometimes even family doctor.

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So sorry that your surgery hasn’t been helpful so far…it has been mentioned by others as a post-surgery issue; here’s a link to a really old discussion, the member hasn’t been on for a while now but he was recommended physio, so definitely keep pushing for that:
Post surgery problem - General - Living with Eagle
Another member had cervical instability, but mentions shoulder weakness, so has posted exercises given by the physio; might be worth a look, but be careful!
Two month surgery update - Symptoms and Treatments - Living with Eagle
I hope that you get your referral soon, and that your nerves start to heal :pray:

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Thanks! I did see both of these posts, but unfortunately, they didn’t really show if it resolved. Looks like the first one is no longer on the Eagles page because they more than likely saw relief. I’m just curious how long it’ll take to get better. Thank you again!

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Physiatrist
Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PM&R) physicians, also known as physiatrists, treat a wide variety of medical conditions affecting the brain, spinal cord, nerves, bones, joints, ligaments, muscles, and tendons.

These docs are usually the ones who do a significant amount of nerve conduction studies (EMG’s) as well as injections. Sometimes they can treat or will give you results to take back to a neurologist to evaluate. The neurologist might be able to give RX for meds to calm down the nerve. This combined with the PT/Massage might help get you back on the right track.

EMG’s are not always accurate but can sometimes give you an idea of whether a nerve was damaged. There is also MR Neurography…an MRI that reads nerves. Its usually only at large educational medical centers.

I suggest calling the referral office directly to get PT. Don’t count on them to call you in a timely manner.

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Scapular winging can be caused by damage to the spinal accessory nerve as well as the dorsal scapular or long thoracic nerve. The spinal accessory nerve is very close to the styloid (Cranial nerve XII). Physical therapy and massage therapy can help.

It could help to know if one of those nerves were damaged during the surgery. The good news is that like @Snapple2020 said, PT can help. As @Isaiah_40_31 asked, did you have any of those symptoms at all before surgery? Perhaps surgery exacerbated?

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I spoke with my surgeon and he mentioned that all of my nerves were firing just fine following my surgery and that none of my nerves were touched during the surgery. That was surprising to me. I started PT a few weeks ago and it seems to be helping a bit but it is a slow process, as most everything is! haha.

I did not have any of these symptoms before surgery so I am so confused what is happening. The Dr. did say that he had to stretch out some muscles in my neck to get to things so I am wondering if that might be the issue that my muscles are not working together like they did before. Just trying to give it some time and we will see!

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@Millcf you might find some reassurance in this great post

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@Millcf within each muscle there are nerves that innervate. So when the muscle is stretched the nerves can be stretched too. The good news is that it will all calm down in time. Sorry you’re going through this. It’ll get better! Just give it some time :slight_smile:

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This is extremely helpful and I love the way it was described! Thank you!

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