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Brachial Plexus Stingers: Also Known as Stingers Or Burners

Posted on the 20 September 2012 by Georgiaclinic @ChiroAugustaGA

Brachial Plexus Stingers: also known as stingers or burnersA Burner or Stinger is an intensely painful nerve injury which most often occurs in contact or collision sports like football, wrestling, and snow skiing. A stinger or burner is actually an injury to a group of nerves known as the brachial plexus that include the nerve roots extending from spinal vertebrae C5 and continuing through T1.  These nerve roots originate from the spinal cord and branch out from the spinal cord at the levels of the various vertebrae.  The injury is named for the “stinging” or “burning” pain that radiates (spreads) from the shoulder to the hand. This can feel like an electric shock or “lightening bolt” down the arm, and may be accompanied by a warm sensation.  Many of our patients at Georgia Clinic of Chiropractic (Augusta, GA) that come in with burner or stinger complaints are often athletes in high-contact sports.

What is a brachial plexus stinger?

A brachial plexus stinger is an injury to the nerve bundle that results in transient paralysis and paresthesia (loss of sensation) of the entire arm.  Although frightening for the athlete, the transient paralysis and paresthesia usually resolves quickly within minutes.  However, more serious brachial plexus stingers can result in damage to the nerve itself with neurological deficits lasting up to one year.

What are the symptoms?

Burners and Stingers are neck injuries that cause acute pain that feels like a burning, pinching, or shock running from the base of the skull to the shoulder or along the neck. Usually this pain is quite intense, but subsides quickly. In addition to an acute pain and shock from the shoulder down into the arm and fingers, there may be numbness, burning, or weakness in the arm, hand, and fingers.

What are the causes?

Although brachial plexus stingers have several mechanisms of injury, the most common is when the brachial plexus is stretched when the head is forced to one side while the opposite shoulder is depressed.  This “stretch” is enough to cause a temporary injury to the plexus resulting in transient symptoms of the shoulder, arm, and hand.

Brachial Plexus Stingers: also known as stingers or burners
This nerve bundle can also be injured through a direct blow to the side of the neck/shoulder or injured when the neck is extended (face to the sky) while the shoulder is abducted (arm is moved up and to the side of the body).  During this type of positioning of the head and shoulder, the brachial plexus can be compressed between the clavicle and first rib.

Who typically gets stingers?

Brachial plexus stingers are well known and common in the sport of football but are rarely seen in any other sport (Brukner, P. & Khan, K., 2002).  It is not uncommon to have a football player run off the field with his/her arm hanging limply to the side during a practice and/or game.  They are common in the sport of football because of the frequency that the athletes lead with their heads and shoulders.

How do I get treated?

Nonsurgical treatment methods and methods that are side-effect free from prescription medications are always the best options to try first.  Many professional ahtletes and Olympians rely on the least invasive forms of treatment on a regular basis for pain management as well as peak performace.  A chiropractor trained to treat sports-specific injuries are the best avenues to pursue first.  At Georgia Clinic of Chiropractic we have great success in treating stingers, and we are able to customize treatment based not only on a patient’s specific condition, but also on the sport they are involved in, to prevent future injuries and enhance performance.  The strain put on a football player’s body is different from that of a runner, and our treatments reflect the different mechanisms the human body goes through in training and competing.  Subsequent injuries tend to be increasingly severe and can damage the nerve permanently, and getting the proper course of treatment on the first injury is ideal. We look forward to working together with you to formulate the best way to getting you back on track.

Georgia Clinic of Chiropractic successfully treats a wide range of athletes, creating customized treatments based on the athlete’s sport, current condtion as well as performance goals.  All treatments are researched and tailored to each patient in an individualized environment.  Our treatments are not only spine-specific, but also extremity-specific, allowing parts of the body such as a knee or ankle, to receive condition-specific treatments as well.

Georgia Clinic of Chiropractic is conveniently located off Furys Ferry Rd in Martinez, Georgia and provides quality chiropractic care to the Augusta, Martinez, and Evans communities.  To schedule an appointment, call (706) 814-5053 or schedule an appointment online at 

The Georgia Clinic of Chiropractic Blog is written by Dr. Mark Huntsman.

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