Suprascapular neuropathy

Last revised by Joachim Feger on 1 Jun 2024

Suprascapular neuropathy or suprascapular nerve entrapment occurs if the suprascapular nerve is compressed as it passes through the suprascapular or spinoglenoid notch.

Suprascapular nerve entrapment is a relatively rare but often overlooked cause of shoulder pain 1-3.

Risk factors of Suprascapular nerve entrapment include 2-4:

  • repetitive overhead activity: such as volleyball and swimming, but also laborers

  • shoulder injuries

  • anatomical variations of the suprascapular and spinoglenoid notch 3

  • vascular abnormalities

A combination of typical clinical features and imaging can establish the diagnosis.

Non-specific posterior shoulder pain and weakness. 

Suprascapular nerve entrapment is a nerve compression syndrome that usually occurs at the suprascapular or spinoglenoid notch either as a result of a dynamic traction injury, direct trauma, anatomical variations or other predisposing pathologies such as ganglion cyst 1-4.

  • direct features of entrapment 5

    • nerve swelling with an increased cross-sectional diameter

    • signal changes of the nerve

    • visualization of the causative factor

  • indirect features of entrapment via features of muscle atrophy or acute denervation 5

    • supraspinatus and infraspinatus muscles: compression at the suprascapular notch

    • infraspinatus muscle only: compression at the spinoglenoid notch

In the absence of a fracture, space-occupying lesion or other pathology with a clear requirement for surgery conservative, non-operative management consists of the first-line treatment. It includes rehabilitation, lifestyle modifications and, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs 2,3. Minimal invasive techniques such as suprascapular nerve injections, nerve block or neurostimulation could be considered. Should nonoperative management fail or evident lesions cause the entrapment such as a ganglion cyst surgery should be considered and include arthroscopic and open decompression techniques 2,7.

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