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Posted by on Sep 27, 2012 | 0 comments

Brachial Plexus Stingers (also known as stingers or burners)


A 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.

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