Ask the Expert: Dr. Joseph Feinberg, Physiatric Peripheral Nerve Injury Specialist, Answers Your Questions on Peripheral Nerve Injuries

Painful Joints

Q1: I am a competitive volleyball player and have recently noticed some weakness in my spiking shoulder. My trainer recommended I see a doctor about it in case it is something serious. Is it possible for volleyball players to suffer from peripheral nerve injury?

Volleyball players can sometimes have an injury to the peripheral nerve that supplies part of the rotator cuff muscles. It is called the suprascapular nerve. This can lead to pain and weakness and should be evaluated by either a doctor who specializes in peripheral nerve injuries or a sports medicine physician. A nerve exam known as an Electrodiagnostic test (EMG) can help identify this problem.

Q2: Are dancers at risk for peripheral nerve injuries?

Dancers can sustain injuries to the peripheral nerves in the feet. Common symptoms are numbness, tingling, or burning pain. Although injuries to peripheral nerves in the feet can lead to weakness in the foot muscles, the weakness may be not be obvious and may be difficult to detect. One type of nerve injury, a neuroma can usually be identified with an MRI or ultrasound.

Q3: Is carpal tunnel syndrome related to peripheral nerve injury or is this kind of injury only a result of accidents?

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition that involves the median nerve in the wrist and causes numbness and tingling in the hand usually involving the thumb, index finger, middle finger and sometime part of the ring finger. Symptoms are often worse at night. It can also lead to pain, loss of strength and loss of fine motor skills. The symptoms usually occur over a period of time, sometimes during pregnancy, less commonly from an acute injury and can also result from a number of underlying medical disorders.

Q4: Is surgery the only way to treat peripheral nerve injury?

There are a number of ways to treat peripheral nerve injuries. Surgical decompression is often necessary but there are cases where a cortisone injection, proper splinting or activity modification and some form of occupational or physical therapy may be helpful. Certain traumatic injuries may require surgical repair or even nerve transfers. The causes can vary widely and treatments should be decided on a case by case basis.

Dr. Joseph Feinbergย is Physiatrist-in-Chief and specializes in brachial plexus and peripheral nerve injuries and disorders. He is Co-Medical Director atย Center for Brachial Plexus and Traumatic Nerve Injury. He is currently the team physician for St. Peters College. Dr. Feinberg is the editor of a book titled Peripheral Nerve Injuries in the Athlete, published by Human Kinetics. Dr. Feinberg is part of a medical team called F.O.C.O.S. (Foundation of Orthopedics and Complex Spine) that travels to Ghana to treat patients with orthopaedic and neurological disorders.

Topics: Orthopedics
The information provided in this blog by HSS and our affiliated physicians is for general informational and educational purposes, and should not be considered medical advice for any individual problem you may have. This information is not a substitute for the professional judgment of a qualified health care provider who is familiar with the unique facts about your condition and medical history. You should always consult your health care provider prior to starting any new treatment, or terminating or changing any ongoing treatment. Every post on this blog is the opinion of the author and may not reflect the official position of HSS. Please contact us if we can be helpful in answering any questions or to arrange for a visit or consult.


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  1. In 2013 I had left shoulder surgery for a torn labrum. I noticed some swelling over clavicle on left side about one month after surgery. I was still feeling pain after surgery so I couldn’t tell if there was any pain related to that swelling. I was told that it was probably post surgery and nothing to be alarmed about. The problem is that the swelling(not major but I can feel it) is still there and there is considerable weakness and dull pain in the upper trapezius and around the scapula. When my arm is down there is a sense of weakness but I can manage most tasks. The real problem is when I use my arm when it is lifted over head, that is when I am limited. I did receive a inter scalene block with shoulder surgery. I don’t know if this has anything to do with what I am feeling but thought I would mention it. I also had an ACDF surgery C5-C6,C6-C7 . This surgery was for a separate incident and was performed approximately one and a half years after the shoulder surgery. The swelling over the clavicle was present well before the disc fusion injury and subsequent surgery. I would consider the neck surgery a success however the shoulder is is limiting me and I need some answers. Can you help?

    1. Hi John, thank you for reaching out. We’re sorry to hear about your situation. We advise that you request a consultation with a physician. If you wish to receive care at Hospital for Special Surgery, please contact our Physician Referral Service at 800-796-0482 for further assistance.

  2. After problems with both feet, numerous episodes of casting and walking boots, and one surgery, I’ve had a complication-bilater common peroneal nerve pain. No muscle weakness, normal emg’s and nerve conduction studies. I still have to have 2 more surgeries and am not sure what to do about outer leg pain. I can’t stand the pressure of my mattress at night against my legs and recently looked up common peroneal nerve pain to find out it can cause paralyzation and mobility problems. Now I’m kinda freaking out! What are the odds of that happening when all I have now is pain? My neurologist wasn’t the best and wanted to refer me to pain management but I don’t want pain management. I’m 26 years old and am hoping to treat the actual cause of the pain so it doesn’t disrupt sleeping forever. What do i do?!!!

  3. I have a pacemaker so can not have MRI”s. Would a CT scan of foot and ankle tell us if surgery for tarsal tunnel release is my cause of pain? The pes anserine bursitis on the same leg has been extremely bad again in the past few months. I”ve had the bursitis since before my patella femoral replacements, probably 4+ years. If my gait has changed because of the bursa pain, could that have caused the tarsal tunnel to develop? Also, could the fluid that has been in my bursa for so long be pressing on any of the nerves that run down into my ankle where the tarsal tunnel pain is?
    I have POTS(Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome), it basically means that my blood vessels expand instead of contract when I stand, and my blood pressure does the opposite of what it is suppose to do. This makes it very difficult to treat my orthopedic issues. I am having a hard time figuring out what to tackle first and all the Dr”s I”ve seen in Atlanta want to look at just the knee or just the foot. If I came to Hospital for Special Surgery would I get a combined approach. i also have back issues, lumbar and cervical. Had L5 S1 discectomy 20 years ago and cervical fusion of C5/6 and C6/7 4 years ago. My back Dr. thinks that the nerve damage I have from my back (had a nerve study done this summer) could be contributing to all of my issues.

    Who would you recommend I see at your hospital, and how long would I have to stay to determine the best treatment for me?

  4. I have been diagnosed, by nerve study, with tarsal tunnel syndrome. Been doing exercises, wearing orthoatics, had 2 injections, taken medrol dose pak, with minimal pain relief. Pain is often a 7 or 8 on a scale of 1 to 10 by mid day. I have also had patella femoral knee replacement 18 months ago and have had chronic pes anserine bursitis in the same leg/foot. I think all conditions are related in some way, and am confused as to how best to proceed with treatment. My local orthopedic Dr is recommending tarsal tunnel release surgery, but until the whole leg is assessed I am reluctant. I am willing to travel to NYC for assessment and even treatment/surgery if that is my best chance for success and reduced pain.

    1. Hi Katherine, thank you for your question. Dr. Jonathan Deland, Orthopedic Surgeon, says: ?Tarsal tunnel operations have the best chance of success if a cause is determined for the symptoms (i.e., a mass or something that can be seen pressing on the nerve). I would recommend an MRI scan of high quality to determine the cause of the symptoms.? To make an appointment for an evaluation, please contact Patient Referral Service at 877-606-1555 or visit them online at