Burners and Stingers

Burners and stingers are typical injuries in contact or collision sports. A burner or a stinger is an injury to the nerve supply of the upper arm, either at the neck or shoulder. The injury is named for the stinging or burning pain that spreads from the shoulder to the hand. This could feel like an electric shock or lightning bolt down the arm.

More often than not, burners and stingers are short-lived and symptoms quickly go away. However, they shouldn't be taken lightly. That’s why Dr. Kathleen Weaver of Audrain Orthopaedics in Mexico, MO has this worthwhile information for you about burners and stingers.


Nerves are like electrical cables that travel through the spinal canal carrying messages in between your brain and muscles. The nerves that offer feeling and movement to the arm branch out of the spinal canal at the neck. They join together to form a larger bundle, or cord, of nerves. This cord is called the brachial plexus. The nerve supply to the arm runs through this plexus.Internal Derangement of Knee Knee Dislocation Meniscal Tear Mexico MO


An injury to the brachial plexus may cause a burner or stinger. This often happens whenever the head is forcefully pushed sideways and down. This bends the neck and pinches the surrounding nerves.

Risk Factors

Contact sports. Athletes who engage in contact sports are more inclined to sustain a burner or stinger. Indeed, as much as 70 percent of all college football players report having had a burner or stinger during their 4-year careers.

Burners and stingers frequently arise with a fall on the head, like in a wrestling takedown or a football tackle. Actually, tackling or blocking in American football is the athletic activity that most frequently causes burners or stingers. Football defensive players and linemen frequently suffer this injury.

Spinal stenosis. Along with playing contact sports, a small spinal canal may put you at greater risk for a burner or stinger. Athletes with persistent stingers or burners may have smaller spinal canals than players who don't suffer recurrent injury. This condition is referred to as spinal stenosis.


In a fall, nerves can be stretched whenever the player takes a hit on the top of the shoulder, causing the neck to be forced one way and the arm to be forced the other way.

Burner and stinger symptoms generally show up in one arm only. They generally last seconds to minutes, but in 5% to 10 % of cases, they're able to last hours, days, or even longer. The most widespread warning signs of a burner or stinger include:

•   A burning or electric shock sensation

•   Arm numbness and weakness immediately following the injury

•   A warm sensation

Doctor Examination

To figure out whether your injury is a burner or stinger, your Mid-MO orthopaedic physician will examine your symptoms and how the injury took place. Imaging tests, such as x-rays, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans, and nerve studies are not generally needed.

A more comprehensive examination is required if you have any of the following symptoms:

•   Weakness lasting more than several days

•   Neck pain

•   Symptoms in each arm

•   History of recurrent stingers/burners


Treatment starts by removing the athlete from additional injury. Athletes aren't allowed to return to sports activity until their symptoms are completely gone. This can take a couple of minutes or a few days. Athletes should never be allowed to return to sports if they have weakness or neck pain.

If you've had recurrent stingers, your physician may recommend a special neck roll or elevated shoulder pads to use during sporting activities. Examples of special shoulder pads include "spider pads" worn under the shoulder pads or a "cowboy collar" worn on top of shoulder pads.

Although the injury gets better with time, you may want to work with a trainer or therapist to regain strength and motion if the symptoms go on for several days.

Audrain Orthopaedics is equipped to help you with any orthopedic issues that you may have. If you live in Mexico, Moberly, or Columbia, Missouri, Audrain Orthopaedics is here for you.

Thank you for seeing me the day I walked into your office in such pain – I believe that there are angels among us & you were mine that day…

N.M age 59