If you or someone close to you plays a sport, it is important to be educated on injuries that are common to the sport to ensure you are doing everything in your power to minimize these injuries. Most injuries in sports are related to the muscles, tendons, ligaments, and bones. These are avoided through utilizing proper technique, stretching, warming up, and staying hydrated.
While there are things you can do to minimize the risk of injury, there is still always a chance of injury and that is the reason you should familiarize yourself with common types of injuries, what causes them, and their treatment. These injuries can even happen outside of the sports setting so being prepared with this knowledge can allow you to be more prepared in the event of an injury.
One such injury that will be discussed is a burner, or stinger injury. These injuries are typical of contact sports and can be a rather confusing kind of injury. Rather than hurting in a conventional way a musculature injury would, a stinger injury causes a tingling or burning sensation that radiates down the arm.
For those unfamiliar with what a stinger is, this can cause unnecessary fear of the unknown. This article aims to educate you on what a stinger injury is, how it is different from other injuries, how it is treated, and how to find pain relief.
What is a Stinger?
A stinger is an injury of the shoulder or neck that results in a temporary stinging or burning sensation down the length of the arm. A stinger, also sometimes called a burner, derives its name from the sensation experienced when the injury occurs. This injury comes about as a result of damage endured by the nerves that serve the arms.
At its mildest, a stinger injury can simply cause tingling and numbness in the arm and hand that lasts a few seconds. At its worst, a stinger injury can result in permanent nerve damage to the nerves of the arm.
What Causes a Stinger?
As described above, a Stinger is caused by an injury sustained to the nerves that serve the arm. More specifically the injury affects what is known as the brachial plexus. The brachial plexus is the bundle of nerves that exit the spinal cord and serve the arms. These nerves exit the spinal cord in the lower neck and travel under the collarbone where they then branch off to make up the nerves of the arm.
There are three different ways that an injury to this nerve bundle can be sustained:
- Traction injury – A traction injury is essentially a stretching of the nerves in the brachial plexus. This injury is caused by the head moving to one shoulder while the other shoulder is depressed in some capacity. This motion places strain on the nerve bundles and results in a stinger.
- Compression Injury – A compression injury is damage experienced by the brachial plexus through compression. The movement of the head towards the same shoulder that is being depressed can cause the nerves to be compressed or pinched. This compression is less likely to result in a tear, however, it can still cause the neuropathic pain associated with a stinger.
- Blunt Trauma – The last way that an injury to the brachial plexus can be sustained is through blunt force. The nervous bundles of the brachial plexus are left relatively unprotected in the area between the upper shoulder and collar bone. This injury can be sustained in sports like hockey or lacrosse where the sticks can sometimes make contact with this region. Additionally, blunt trauma-associated brachial plexus injuries can also be sustained during an automobile accident where the seatbelt going across the shoulder can impact the nervous bundle causing a burner or stinger.
How is a Stinger Injury Categorized?
Like most injuries, there is a grading scale utilized by medical professionals to understand the extent of an individual’s injuries.
For a stinger, there are three (technically four) grades of stinger injuries. Below is a breakdown of the stinger injury grades:
- Non-graded – A non-graded stinger is typically a very minimal injury to the nerves in the brachial plexus. These injuries result in a brief tingling sensation in the arm but resolve themselves within minutes. These injuries typically do not need specified downtime and the individual is most likely good to continue life as normal.
- Grade I – A grade I stinger injury is an injury where the nerves in the brachial plexus bundle obtain a physical injury. For a grade 1 stinger, the injury persists for some time and full recovery can take up to 3 weeks. This time period allows for the remyelination of damaged nerves.
- Grade II – A grade II stinger injury results in damage to what is known as the axon. In a neuron, the axon is the structure that sends the nerve impulse to the next neuron. This sustained injury may or may not be able to fully recover. This can lead to long-lasting muscle weakness or loss of sensation.
- Grade III – A grade III stinger injury is an injury that results in a fully severed nerve pathway. A grade III injury to the brachial plexus can result in permanent loss of motion of affected nerves running down the arm. Over time the muscle groups that are controlled by these nerves will atrophy.
What Separates a Stinger From Other Nerve Injuries?
Now equipped with the knowledge of what a stinger injury is, you may be asking yourself what the difference is between a stinger injury and other nerve injuries.
The main difference is the location of the nerve pain and injury. For nerve injuries, the location of the injury is what differentiates it from another nerve injury. Nerve pain from the hip down the leg is considered sciatica because it affects the sciatica nerve. In other words, a stinger is a name given specifically to nerve damage to the brachial plexus.
How is a Stinger Injury Treated?
Treating a nervous system injury can seem intimidating, but ultimately the at-home treatments are much like the treatment for any other internal injury. Ice, anti-inflammatory drugs, pain relievers, and rest. These all play an integral part of the at-home recovery of a stinger:
After any injury, the body’s natural response is to begin initiating inflammation in the area of injury. While this is a part of the healing process, too much inflammation can cause more bad than good. Inflammation around nerves can cause lasting pain and damage.
Inflammation typically peaks after the initial injury and can stick around for up to 48 hours post-injury. To help reduce the inflammation you can utilize ice. Ice acts by reducing blood flow to the area which therefore reduces the amount of fluid buildup that is able to reach the injury.
Ice for 15 minutes at a time, with breaks to allow the skin to rise back up to normal body temperature for proper icing technique. After 48 hours icing is typically not necessary and it is actually then recommended to apply heat to promote blood circulation. One can also instead utilize menthol-based topicals like Hempvana Cold as Ice Gel Patch to achieve the same cooling sensation without limiting the blood flow necessary for healing.
Stinger injuries can be quite uncomfortable and painful. While unable to cure a stinger injury, pain relievers can give you the relief you need to recover in comfort. There are many options for pain relief but one of the best options for a stinger is topical pain relief.
Hempvana Pain Relief Cream offers a unique blend of soothing and moisturizing agents. For a stinger, applying the pain relief cream can relieve some of the discomfort associated with the injury.
Rest is the most important aspect to treating a stinger injury. When you sustain an injury of the nerves to the brachial plexus, you can be more susceptible to further damage. Nerve damage should not be taken lightly, as a severe nerve injury could mean that you lose the proper functioning of your limb.
If you have a stinger injury that lasts for more than a few minutes, it is important to stop the activity and to allow your body to heal. The human body is great at repairing itself but you need to allow the body the opportunity to go to work to get your nerves functioning like they once did. Utilizing Hempvana Gold in conjunction with rest can allow you a more comfortable recovery experience.
In summary, a stinger injury is an injury to the brachial plexus which is a bundle of nerves that leaves the neck and goes to the arms. The injury can result in arm weakness, pain, and tingling. If you sustain a stinger injury that lasts more than a few minutes, it is advised to go to your doctor to get the injury checked out. A licensed physician will be able to grade the injury and set you up with the best treatment option for you.