If you know someone who plays a contact sport like football, lacrosse or hockey, you’ve probably heard of burners and stingers. Simply put, they are two different words for the same thing and they refer to a temporary feeling of numbness, burning or weakness in one arm due to injury to the brachial plexus or some components of it. The brachial plexus is the collection of nerves that exit from the neck and extend down the arm bringing energy to all the muscles, blood vessels and skin in the arms. These nerves exit through spaces in the spine, come out in the neck and then extend down the arms all the way to the fingertips. As you could imagine, any stretching or compression of the nerves along their paths can cause problems. If the nerves are compressed or stretched too much you can have problems.
In the case of a burner/stinger, the nerve roots or plexus are stretched or compressed to the point that the energy traveling through the nerves is transiently altered. Imagine running over a garden hose with a car. The car’s weight, blocks off the water flow temporarily and no water comes out. When you get a burner/stinger, the nerve information(water) is blocked from going down the arm. As a result you may feel numbness, burning, tingling or weakness. The nerves have been “kinked” but fortunately as soon as the stretch or compression go away they are able to get back to working normally again. Burners/stingers are classically on only one side and usually go away within 10-15 minutes, but may stay as long as 24 hours. Bilateral (both arms) or persistent symptoms are concerning and should always be evaluated by a doctor.
If you or someone you love has recurrent burners/stingers or persistent numbness, tingling or weakness in the arms you should be evaluated by your physician.
To learn more about burners/stingers or to schedule a consultation contact us.