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Burners and Stingers: From Contact Sports Athletes to Shopping Enthusiasts, You Too Can Be at Risk!

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According to some sources on the internet, the odds of being struck by lightning are one in 576,000. However, if you are a sports enthusiast who literally likes to get in the game, you stand a significant chance of injury to the nerve supply of the upper arm that can feel like a shock or bolt of lightning down the arm. Anyone who engages in contact or collision sports (sometimes referred to as bargain shopping!) is at risk for this injury.

Burners and stingers are common injuries sustained by those who are actively involved in any sport that involves contact or potential for collision. (Have you ever tried to race someone to that last checkout line at Wal-Mart that says “20 items or less,” and you have three items while that other woman has, oh, 30 items in her basket?) In short, this injury to the nerve supply in the upper arm can be either at the neck or the shoulder. It is named for the stinging or burning sensation that soon spreads from the shoulder down to the hand. Fortunately, in most cases, this is a temporary condition and the symptoms go away as quickly as they struck. (Not to be confused with the stinging sensation of realizing your total bill at time of check-out is $100.00, and not the highly-anticipated $45.00 or so).

For basic anatomy purposes, your nerves are like electrical cables traveling through the spinal canal. These nerves carry messages from your brain to your muscles. The nerves that allow for feeling and movement to the arm come out of the spinal canal at the neck. When they join together, they form a cord of nerves. This cord is also known as the brachial plexus. All of the nerve supply to the arm goes through this plexus.

When this bundle of nerves (often my own state of mind) is injured, it can cause a burner or a stinger. This typically occurs when the head if forced to the side or down, bending the neck and pinching the surrounding nerves. (Like when your husband is trying to figure out all of those purchases on your shopping receipt).

For athletes who play contact sports, this is a common injury.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.


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