Stinging pain in elbow and fingers
by Nathan Wei, MD, FACP, FACR
Nathan Wei is a nationally known board-certified rheumatologist and author of the Second Opinion Arthritis Treatment Kit. It's available exclusively at this website... not available in stores.
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There are a number of situations where this may occur.
Carpal tunnel syndrome can sometimes cause this. Carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition where the median nerve that provides the sensory innervation to the hand becomes compressed in the wrist. Common causes for carpal tunnel syndrome include repetitive motion, rheumatoid arthritis, hypothyroidism, and pregnancy. Although most carpal tunnel related pain is a burning pain, it sometimes causes stinging pain down into the hands and up into the elbow.
Other entrapment neuropathies of the ulnar and radial nerves and their branches can cause stinging pain.
As mentioned earlier, brachial plexus lesions can cause stinging pain as can cervical radiculopathy.
Another common cause is the “stinger.” A "stinger" or "burner" is a neurologic event that occurs in athletes.
The nerves that give feeling to the arms and hands originate from the cervical (neck) spinal cord. As these nerves leave the neck, they form the brachial plexus.
This nerve injury often happens when an athlete, such as a football player, makes a hard hit using his shoulder. The direct blow to the top of the shoulder causes the neck to bend toward the opposite side. This motion severely stretches or compresses the nerves and triggers an intense discharge of electrical impulses which shoot down the arm.
The episode causes weakness in the arm. Symptoms also include tingling and of burning or stinging pain in the arm and hand. The pain usually lasts only a few minutes, but the weakness can last weeks, months, or years. Rarely, the injury may cause permanent damage.
Stingers or burners produce symptoms in only one arm. Injuries that can accompany a stinger include fractures, dislocations, or damage to the ligaments of the cervical spine.
A contusion of the spinal cord in the neck during athletic competition can lead to temporary quadriparesis, producing symptoms of pain and tingling in both arms and both legs. Certain athletes may be more prone to this injury because the space in their necks through which the spinal cord travels is narrow.
Preventing recurrent stingers is important. Subsequent injuries tend to be increasingly severe and can damage the nerve permanently. An exercise program to develop full range of motion and protective strength of the neck and shoulder muscles may help.
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