Patient Education

To help you understand and navigate through your orthopedic health decisions, we have created a patient education section. Please select from one of the categories below to learn more about your condition or procedure.
Burners & Stingers

Burners and stingers are terms used to describe a sudden, sharp pain or sensation that radiates down one arm following an impact to the neck or shoulder. These injuries are common in contact sports, particularly football, and result from nerve compression or stretching in the brachial plexus, a network of nerves that runs from the neck to the arm.

Common Symptoms

  • Burning or stinging sensation: Sudden, intense pain or tingling that radiates from the neck to the arm.
  • Numbness or weakness: Temporary loss of sensation or strength in the affected arm.
  • Electric shock-like sensation: A sharp, shooting pain.
  • Arm and shoulder pain: Discomfort may persist for several minutes to hours.
  • Muscle weakness: May affect grip strength or arm movement.

Cause & Anatomy

  • Impact: Direct blow to the neck or shoulder.
  • Compression: Nerve pinching due to neck extension and lateral flexion.
  • Stretching: Overstretching of the brachial plexus nerves during a fall or collision.

Diagnosis

Medical history and physical examination: Assessing the mechanism of injury, symptoms, and performing a neurological exam.

Imaging tests:

  • X-rays: To rule out fractures or spinal abnormalities.
  • MRI: To visualize soft tissues, including nerves and discs.
  • CT scan: Provides detailed images of the spine and surrounding structures.
  • Electromyography (EMG): To assess nerve function and identify any nerve damage.

Prevention

  • Proper technique: Ensuring correct tackling and blocking techniques in contact sports.
  • Strengthening exercises: Building neck and shoulder muscle strength to provide better support.
  • Flexibility training: Regular stretching to maintain flexibility and reduce the risk of nerve stretching.
  • Protective equipment: Using appropriate gear to protect the neck and shoulders during sports activities.

Treatment

Immediate Care

  • Rest: Avoiding activities that could aggravate the injury.
  • Ice: Applying ice packs to reduce inflammation and pain.
  • Anti-inflammatory medications: Over-the-counter NSAIDs like ibuprofen.

Non-Surgical

  • Physical therapy: Exercises to strengthen neck and shoulder muscles, improve flexibility, and prevent future injuries.
  • Stretching exercises: To maintain range of motion and prevent stiffness.
  • Ergonomic adjustments: Ensuring proper posture and equipment use, especially in sports.
  • Protective gear: Using neck rolls, collars, or shoulder pads to prevent re-injury in contact sports.

Complications

  • Recurrent injuries: Increased risk of repeated burners and stingers if not properly treated or prevented.
  • Chronic pain: Persistent discomfort in the neck or shoulder.
  • Muscle weakness: Long-term weakness in the affected arm.
  • Nerve damage: Potential for permanent nerve damage with repeated injuries.

Prognosis

  • Recovery time: Most burners and stingers resolve within a few minutes to hours. In some cases, symptoms may persist for days to weeks.
  • Long-term outlook: With proper treatment and prevention, most individuals recover fully and can return to their activities.

FAQ’s

What is the difference between a burner and a stinger?
The terms are often used interchangeably to describe the same type of nerve injury, characterized by a burning or stinging sensation in the arm.

Can burners and stingers cause permanent damage?
Most cases resolve without long-term issues, but repeated injuries can increase the risk of permanent nerve damage.

Should I see a doctor for a burner or stinger?
If symptoms persist for more than a few hours, or if you experience recurrent episodes, it is important to seek medical attention to rule out more serious injuries.

Can I continue playing sports after a burner or stinger?
It is important to allow time for recovery and to use preventive measures before returning to play. Consult with a healthcare professional for specific advice.

How can I prevent burners and stingers in the future?
Proper technique, strengthening exercises, flexibility training, and using protective gear can help prevent future injuries.

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