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  • Writer's pictureAdam Burdick

Cervical Burners & Stingers

Injury to the nerves of the neck and shoulder that cause a burning or stinging feeling are called burners or stingers, although another name for this is a brachial plexus injury.

Football players are affected most often, with a surprising stat of nearly half of all college football players having had at least one burner or stinger.

Fortunately, a burner or stinger is not a serious neck injury.

The brachial plexus is affected most often by a downward or backward force against the shoulder when a direct blow or hard hit to the top of your shoulder pushes it down at the same time that your head is forced in the opposite direction.

In the process, the brachial plexus between the neck and shoulder gets stretched and the nerves in the area/down the arm are impacted.

A burning or stinging feeling between the neck and shoulder is the hallmark finding in this condition.

The painful symptoms start above the shoulder and go down the arm, sometimes even into the hand.

The shoulder and arm may feel numb or weak, tingling sensations may also be present.

Symptoms may only last a few seconds or minutes, but for some patients the healing takes days or weeks.

Rest and gentle neck and shoulder range of motion exercises are advised until symptoms resolve.

If this does not occur within a few days, then physical therapy may be needed.

Your therapist will use modalities such as biofeedback, electrical nerve stimulation, and manual therapy to help restore the natural function of the nerves.

Range of motion and strengthening exercises will be added as tolerated.

Posture is very important during the healing phase.

A chest-out position helps open the spinal canal, thus giving more room for the spinal cord.

This posture also decreases pressure on the nerve roots.

Your therapist will provide sport-specific therapy when the symptoms resolve.


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