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I don't really know where I'm going with this...

LoLLo Posts: 694
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:27 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
I am asking for thoughts here because I have no idea what is going on, and am wondering if it could be related to the spine... Considering I have NEVER had this happen before, and the only difference in my life in the past 8 months is two back surgeries.

The past couple weeks I've noticed that inhaling is hard. Like, you know the feeling where you take a deep breath but your lungs aren't filling as much as they normally do? I have to take deep breaths really slow and concentrate hard on filling them all the way... Sometimes I can't, still. All day every day this has been going on. I saw my doctor and they listened to my lungs and said they were clear, they gave me the little cardboard tube thing where you take a deep breath and exhale as hard as you can and it measures something... Forget what it's called. I have been taking an expectorant at night, but it hasn't done anything. I have asthma, but it's not an acute flare up, since my lungs sound fine and when I try really hard, like for the little test, I could breathe out enough air. I have an albuterol inhaler and it hasn't done anything for it at all. I'm waiting for my doctor to fax the authorization for my insurance because they put me back on Singulair (controller med for Asthma & allergies).... But nothing is helping so far.

Anyone else have this issue? I read that Dyspnea can be a symptom of Thoracic issues... And I have had Thoracic pain for a while, with a mild herniation at T11-T12 (from February 2008, not sure what it looks like now). T11-12 wouldn't affect my chest and lungs, though, it would affect my stomach. Sooo, I'm wondering if maybe there is an issue in my T spine higher up? I haven't ever had an MRI of my Thoracic spine, the only reason they knew about the T11-12 herniation is because it's at the very bottom, right above the lumbar spine, so it shows up in my lumbar MRIs.

I know Thoracic issues are pretty rare, so I'm not sure how many people will be able to give me some input on that... But even not related to back issues, has anyone had this breathing issue? Any thoughts or suggestions, PLEASE? I can't sleep at all anymore because I can't breathe as well as normal... I've tried propping myself up but NOTHING helps :(

Any thoughts are greatly appreciated!


  • Also... My Thoracic spine pain isn't around the T11-12 area. It's a little below the bottom of my shoulder blades, if that makes any difference.
  • Gosh, that must feel scary at times. We are an asthma family, so to have that compounded? I'm glad you checked with the doctor and know it's not pneumonia or anything.

    I hope someone else has experienced this and can help.

    Take care,

  • I get that too, and I have a congenital thoracic fusion at L4-L5, which really doesn't mean anything, I guess. But also a herniation at t8-9.

    I have also dealt with rather severe asthma since I was 2, so I never know if it's really my back problems or my asthma.

    Don't really have any suggestions unfortunately, but I'm curious to see what others say. I usually stay semi-propped up, just breathe through my mouth, and take albuterol when needed.
  • Hello Lo,

    That is MOST concerning. I hope you and Avaccaro are able to find the cause and the proper treatment for this. Thank you both for sharing.

    For me, I on rare occasion when eating will get a strange feeling just below my breastbone in the center that I can't breath. Don't ask me why, but Indian food will bring this on more than others. At our daughter's Christmas party an "attack" happened, and honesty I thought I was going to die. My wife saw me and could tell something was wrong. I made it through and have had no problem since. I will definitely mention this to my PCP when I see him in a week or two.

    Does the above sound familar to anyone?

  • Rich, my PCP actually told me that heartburn can have that effect... The difficulty breathing thing. She said she's seen it a lot. Indian food would explain that! Might wanna try some antacids when you eat anything that might create that problem? Hope that's all it is!!
  • I find more humidity helps for me. I have a bowl of water on the heat register to help moisten the air. But you can get a humidifier to help moisten the air in your room. And drink lots of water too helps. I have some problems and will have to go get antibiotics because I have bronchitis again triggered by a cold. I hope you're feeling better soon. Charry
    DDD of lumbar spine with sciatica to left hip,leg and foot. L4-L5 posterior disc bulge with prominent facets, L5-S1 prominent facets with a posterior osteocartilaginous bar. Mild bilateral foraminal narrowing c-spine c4-c7 RN
  • I'm kind of confused... A Thoracic fusion at L4-L5? I might be missing something totally obvious, but what exactly does that mean? I understand the congenital part, but not the Thoracic and L4-L5.

    I'm with ya on the Asthma thing. I had it pretty bad when I was little. I was swallowing pills at like 3. Had the nebulizer, the whole shabang. Lol.

    Thanks for your input, I appreciate it! :)
  • Thanks! I will have to try that. Luckily I drink TONS and TONS of water. It's pretty much the only beverage I drink. In excess. But it's okay haha. I will definitely try the humidifier thing.

    Thanks for the well wishes, I hope you feel better too!!! :)
  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 9,858
    I think over time, I;ve become pretty good at Thoracic related problems. You are correct when the problems are in the T8 to T12 level they will (should) not be affecting your chest area, those are more stomach and lower. Chest related problems are generally in the T3-T5 level. There is a condition called the T4 syndrome that at times can mimic a heart attack.

    Ok, now back to you. Do you mind that I ask if you are/were a smoker? Basic reason is that my wife has been in this field for about 30 years. Spending about 25 of them as a Respiratory Therapist, and now running a Pulmonary Rehab Center at our local hospital.
    Today, the primary and most difficult problem is COPD ( Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease ). It sounds like you are doing the right thing in terms of inhalers and medication.

    The only item I didnt see is Advair, which is used generally twice a day in a preventive mode, it will not handle acute onsets.

    I guess since I've see a lot in terms of what my wife does and her patients, I would only recommend you seeing a Pulmonary doctor. Let them run tests to see if there is anything wrong with your lungs. You own that to yourself to make sure you are around a long time for your son.

    Heartburn and gerd (used to be called Hiatal hernia.) can cause a lot of tightness and discomfort while breathing. I had that many years ago and I remember when I took a breath it was very hard, it was as if I just came out of the salt water, swallowed some so it was difficult breathing

    I just cant come up with a spinal related problem that could cause some of the problems you described

    Just take good care of yourself and get this checked out
    Ron DiLauro Spine-Health System Administrator
    I am not a medical professional. I comment on personal experiences
    You can email me at: rdilauro@veritashealth.com
  • Ha, that was a typo. T4-5, I meant
  • Good Morning Lo.

    Yes, perhaps heartburn, but ---- A number of years ago I used to have heartburn. It would affect me about 2 am and for several hours. I finally went to see a gastroentologist. Determined it was caused by my gall bladder. Had surgery to remove the gall bladder and that was the end of the heartburn.

    Lo, what I feel now is when I'm eating, and it is a different feeling. Perhaps it is just a different type of heartburn, caused in a different manner.

    I will definitely have it checked out by the same doc.

    Take care, and I wish you the very best.

  • have the doctors done an x-ray or cat scan to see if anything is going on? Have they suggested possibly seeing a pulmonologist? he will do an in-depth breathing test; which could be very helpful
    Hope you feel better soon.
  • In high school I would share cigarettes every once in a while with friends when skipping school, but I wasn't a regular smoker, no.

    I actually within the last year had two chest CT scans, one with contrast. I had an echocardiagram, an EKG, and regular chest x-rays. I was getting terrible chest pain, and they couldn't find anything physically wrong from any of those things. There was a nodule in one of my lungs, which is why I had 2 chest CTs. First one was with contrast, second was without. They did them 6 months apart to see if the nodule was changing at all, and it wasn't, so they said it's fine. Apparently nodules in the lungs aren't uncommon.

    I had another inhaler of some kind of steroids that were to be taken twice a day, but I don't do well with steroids. I gain lots of weight, which adds to my depression, and I get really moody (I already have bi-polar disorder and had to stop my mood stabilizers because my hair was falling out.) so anything adding to the manic mood swings really does more damage than anything else.

    I'm hoping the Singulair will make a difference. I'm planning on asking my PCP to do a CT scan of my Thoracic spine anyway, because that's the most painful area of my back. My physical therapist is going to work on my entire spine, lumbar, thoracic, and cervical, since I am having the shooting pain down my arms again, and pain at C6-C7. Hopefully it turns out to be just referred pain from my neck, which is something my Neurosurgeon said it could possibly be. All I know is that the combination of the tight, firey, burning pain on the right side of my back in the Thoracic area, and the SI joint pain, along with the Cervical pain and shooting pain in the arms, I'm not a happy camper. I feel like if it's not one thing, it's another. My lumbar spine where the fusion was feels great now. I no longer have the sharp pain that prevented me from sitting up straight, or the weakness or instability... But it seems like I can't just feel 22. Lol.
  • Have you ever had a panic attack or hyperventilated? I get panic attacks and hyperventilate sometimes. The feeling I get sounds exactly as you described. You take deep breaths but can't seem to breath or get air to your lungs.I have several bulges in my neck. When my shoulder muscle flare up I tend to have muscle tightness at my collar bone. That's about how far it goes down. I don't experience any problems breathing.

    I hope you find out what is causing this problem so you can feel better.
    Best Wishes
  • Have you ever had a panic attack or hyperventilated? I get panic attacks and hyperventilate sometimes. The feeling I get sounds exactly as you described. You take deep breaths but can't seem to breath or get air to your lungs.I have several bulges in my neck. When my shoulder muscle flare up I tend to have muscle tightness at my collar bone. That's about how far it goes down. I don't experience any problems breathing.

    I hope you find out what is causing this problem so you can feel better.
    Best Wishes
  • Sorry you are feeling so crappy. I also have a breathing issue but I think it is a cold coming on or bronchitis. I was in a smoky environment a week ago and haven't felt the same since. I also caught myself falling on the ice and had to grab on to a fence to keep from falling and that hurt my sternum area and ribs in my chest. I am feeling better exept for the breathing thing. It doesn't seem nearly as bad as your issues so go see a specialist. Your breathing troubles are a big deal so try the humidifier or a steamy shower before bed. Vicks vapor rub may also assist in your breathing if you put it on your chest and throat. I now it is stinky and sticky but hey, give it a try and bests wishes to you.
  • Thanks for your reply :)

    Yeah, I have had a few panic attacks to the point of hyperventilating. I have OCD along with generalized anxiety disorder, so the two combined can get nasty. Lol. I have issues with my right side... I can't get any shots or blood tests or IVs or anything in my right side. I can't wear anything on my right side unless it's also on my left, even though I can wear things only on the left. Everything bigger has to be set up on the left, in every area, even like groceries in a cabinet. Lol. The worst one was when I went for a chest CT scan and they couldn't get the IV for the contrast in my left arm because I have really tiny veins that roll... SO they had to try my right and I told them to go ahead and took a deep breath but soon as they moved to my right side I started bawling my eyes out (I never cry) and hyperventilating pretty bad. The doctor and two nurses were like helping me breathe and calming me down. It was totally embarrassing. Lol. They made me stay for a little bit and drink juice and eat some crackers before they let me leave.

    The thing is, though, when I get short of breath from panic attacks or anxiety, it's only for a period of time. This is constant... Always. 24 hours a day. It's odd.

    What you are describing is definitely what it feels like. Sucks, eh?
  • I hope you get over this soon, I know you have a lot on your plate. My asthma used to be severe but thank goodness it has calmed down. I spent many weekends at the ER and it sucked. This time of year is pretty bad with respiratory problems due to cold, allergies,and the dreaded flu. Please get a flu shot if you have the chance and keep us posted on how you are. Your buddy, Meydey
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