Burners and stingers are common injuries to the nerve roots in the neck and shoulder that can cause a burning, or stinging sensation, radiating down the shoulder into the hand. Burners and stingers are common in contact sports such as football, wrestling and rugby. Burners and stingers are not considered to be serious injuries, and they may occur as a result of trauma- most often from a direct blow, hard hits or falls from contact sports.
This condition most frequently occurs from football tackles or blocking another player when a hard hit or direct blow pushes the top of the shoulder down, while the head is simultaneously forced to the opposite side of the body. This can result in shooting pain that radiates down the arm as the nerve roots become irritated or inflamed. Symptoms of a burner or stinger generally occur in one arm and last for a few seconds most of the time. In rare instances the pain can last for hours and days and occur in both arms. The most common symptom is feeling a burning or shocking sensation. Other symptoms may include a warming sensation and arm numbness or weakness following the injury.
A physical examination is necessary in determining if the injury is a burner or stinger. If prolonged weakness, neck pain and symptoms are present in both arms, a more extensive examination may be necessary. X-ray scans, MRI scans and nerve studies are not usually needed in assessing burners and stingers. Treatment options for burners and stingers include rest, cessation of the activity that lead to the injury until symptoms are no longer present, the use of a neck roll or elevated shoulder pads, strengthening exercises and physical therapy to regain strength and motion if the symptoms persist after several days.