Put a Stop to Nerve Injuries Called Stingers
Body-slamming moves are part of the game for football players, wrestlers, and others
who play contact sports. They're also the most common cause of stingers. A stinger
is a burning pain or a feeling like an electrical shock that spreads through one of
the arms. These painful injuries affect the nerves in the neck and shoulders. Or they
can affect nerves in the neck that branch off from the spinal cord.
Stingers occur when the shoulder and head go in opposite directions, the head is moved
quickly to one side, or the area above the collarbone is hit. The injury occurs when
a spinal nerve in the neck is squeezed (compressed) as the head is forced backward
and the neck is forced toward the affected side. Stingers may also be caused when
the head is forced sideways, away from the shoulder. This overstretches the nerves in
the neck and shoulder region.
You may feel a sudden burning or stinging pain in your arm or between your neck and
shoulder. Your shoulder or arm may be tingly, weak, or numb. It also may feel like
an electrical shock is spreading down one of your arms. Symptoms rarely last more
than a few seconds or minutes.
If you have any of these symptoms, see your healthcare provider right away. Untreated
stingers can get better, but nerve damage and muscle weakness can remain. After you
have a stinger, another similar injury is more likely. Multiple stingers cause long-lasting
(permanent) nerve damage and weakness.
Typically, stingers affect only one side of the body. But multiple injuries can affect
both sides. Pain that occurs at the same time in both arms after a neck injury may
mean there is damage to the spinal cord. These symptoms need further medical evaluation
to address the extent of injury.
The pain and muscle weakness caused by stingers typically is treated with ice, then
with anti-inflammatory medicine and heat. You also need to rest until symptoms go
away. If the pain lasts more than a few weeks, your healthcare provider may order
more tests to assess nerve damage. You may need a cervical collar to prevent more
nerve irritation, traction to relieve pressure on nerves, or injections of cortisone
to reduce inflammation.
You shouldn't play sports again until:
When playing sports, your technique and equipment should be reviewed to see if improvements
can protect you from further injury. Strengthening your neck muscles or correcting
long-lasting (chronic) problems with your posture is the best way to help prevent