Long Thoracic Nerve

Let’s talk about this nerve.

As a chiropractor, I am always interested in ways that nerves can get irritated or injured.

The Long Thoracic Nerve is a nerve that innervates, among other things, a muscle called the Serratus Anterior muscle. The job of that muscle is to help stabilize the shoulder blade (the scapula) and guide it’s movement. If this nerve is irritated or otherwise dysfunctional then you will have a disorder of shoulder blade movement, and that can become painful. Without normal biomechanics you will eventually experience pain. When things don’t work right, soon enough it hurts.

Check the image to see that this nerve can be irritated at the area of the clavicle or the side of the chest/armpit.

Sometimes this nerve is hurt by stretch (for example, falling so that your head is bent to the side as you land, or if something or someone pulls your head suddenly) or by compression (by something hitting the clavicle area). Other times it is hurt during a surgery or with repetitive overhead activity. There are many ways this poor nerve can be hurt.

When it is hurt, the shoulder blade may “wing”. It won’t stick to the back ribs as well as it should. And since the shoulder blade is the structure that your arm bone actually attaches to, if the long thoracic nerve is funky then you will get an arm problem soon enough. You can also feel the effects of this nerve being irritated in the side of the chest or the armpit area.

If you think this is your problem, come in for a check. We will feel around, see how the serratus anterior is working, and palpate where this nerve should be. Should we think we can help, then we will tell you and lay out some sort of plan. Sometimes the nerve is irritated at the neck where it comes off the spine, sometimes it is near the clavicle in the muscles with there, and sometimes it’s not even this nerve at all.

Call today to see if we can help.