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Severe thoracic pain negative MRI HELP

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,671
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:30 AM in Upper Back Pain, Thoracic
I hurt my upper back almost 6years ago in the persian gulf by trying to swing my mobility bag up onto my back to carry it. It hurt like hell but i just let it go since I was in a war zone and i didn't want to complain about my back while people were getting blown up.
It seemed to ease up after a few weeks, but as the years went by it got worse. It started hurting when I did anything where I had to bend over like sweeping or washing dishes. At this point it just hurts all day every day. It feels like there is an elephant on my shoulders.It is a constant severe ache around my shoulder blades with frequent severe stabbing pains. I currently take naproxen, flexeril,and lortab but it barely even takes the edge off. The only relief I get is by taking hot baths but the pain returns as soon as I get out of the tub. I finally had an MRI and was excited to finally find out what was wrong but the results came back totally normal. I feel hopeless. I know I am not imagining I am in constant pain. I have a 2 year old son and can barely manage chasing him around. I feel bad because I hurt so much I can't even stand taking him to the playground for more than 5 minutes. I am terrified my doc won't renew my pain meds due to the MRI. even though they don't do much I can barely tolerate just being awake without them. What can cause such severe pain but not show up in an MRI? I am desperate to make the pain stop so I can live a normal life. I'm 28 but I feel 90. Any suggestions would be appreciated.


  • the MRI, CT Scans, XRays, epidural shots, nerve root blocks, every test and probe they could do. I went to 8 specialists (nueo and orto) and no one could find anything wrong. I finally went to a spine clinic 4 hours away and they said I needed a doscogram. The ortho said that not all tears in discs could show up on MRIs. So I had one and they found 3 discs with tears. 2 of those completely torn. I had a 2 level diskectomy and fusion in Dec. The ortho said it does not matter how small or big the tear is, a tear is a tear and they almost always cause pain. My was horrible. It was in my l3,l4,l5.So I suggest asking your Dr about getting this done. It is the gold standard of surgeons to know which discs are pain generators. If your Dr wont do it, I would go to another one for second opinion. Good Luck. I suffered with pain for 2 1/2 years waiting to figure out what was wrong. It hurt badm but couldnt find it. Thought I was going bonkers!
  • I too had a MRI showing only mild bulge of one disc and was told it was normal and shouldn't be causing me this pain. I also tried PT, injections, chiro treatment, decompression therapy, orthopedic inserts for my shoes until my ortho decided to do discogram and found L5/S1 was worse than they thought. Did they do your whole spine when they did MRI?
  • thanks. I'll suggest that at my next visit. Unfortunately I don't have health insurance and I have to go to the VA doctors. They are all about not doing anything that costs money until you are so messed up from putting things off you're almost dead. I'll be be lucky to even get a referal to a specialist and then I'll have to drive almost 3 hours to see him. I am grateful to know that there are other possibilities out there besides me just being insane. Thoracic pain is so frustrating. It seems to affect so many people but doctors don't seem willing to find out the cause Thanks again. I really appreciate hearing the options.
  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 9,846
    are not always that accurate or conclusive. What you do hope for is that the combination of the various tests point to the same thing.
    Many times, we get relief when we are told we have a spinal problem. That in many ways eases our minds, because now we have proof that we are in pain.
    But when all the tests show nothing and the results are negative, manytimes we get the response from our doctors that nothing is basically wrong.
    There can be some truth to that, but I would never accept it until I had multiple doctors saying the same thing.
    Now in your case, there is a possibility that you did some damage to your rhomboid muscle. Thats one of the deeper body muscle, but when its impaired, you can feel all sorts of upper back pain, the stabbing and burning feeling.
    Discuss all of this with your doctor. If it could be muscle related, that hopefully some Physical Therapy would help
    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
  • Welcome to spine health...I don't know if there is too much more to add to the great replies..and ron you put that into great words - though getting a diagnosis is not always good, it can be mentally relieving. We want our pain to be legitimized!

    I too am in a similar situation...i would have bet the house they were going to find something on my thoracic mri. But looking back now I do see that the Radiofrequency in my t 345 got my back into some REALLY BAD muscle spasms...that took forever to diminish. Not to say that I still dont' have the 'pole bw the shoulder blades' and sternum pain, but i do belief that that has been helped with the botox in the trap muscles. The sternum is more of a dull ached now. But man, bw the shoulder blades, the blades themselves and shoulders are horrible still.

    I guess my point to you is there are options...different treatments and tests. Understand that you are in a tough insurance issue....but if the pain is bad enough, you'll drive the 3 hours. Though I would like to drop all of this and stop paying all the medical bills (just went thru them last night - uggghhh) - my body will not let it go and I am at the stage where I am hoping that they will be willing to do some more tests on my neck and thoracic.

    Be compliant and patient - it does pay off - there are good and bad doc - we can all testify to that. In the mean time, this site is invaluable for the mind, body and spirit! take care and update us - you never know who else you may help with your post.
  • just saw another md.. a spinal surgeon. his best advice was to see a witch doctor. LITERALLY! i appreciate the discogram advice.
  • Have you looked into the possiblity is could be a trigger point? Maybe in the rhomboid. You could try Physical Therapy, Trigger Point massage therapy and stretching. This is the rhomboid stretch I like:


    I hope you feel better soon.
  • You would not believe how much pain can be caused by thoracic trigger points. I started therapy after reading about it here and have gotten a lot of relief. My massage Tx.uses her elbows on my painful spots and they hurt when she is putting pressure on them. Regular massage will not work and this is not a cheap treatment.
    I also had a negative MRI after back surgery despite daily, constant debilitating pain.
  • Hello I started to feel similar symptoms 7 months ago, severe pain between shoulderblades on lower portion. I have been thru pys ther, chiropractor and everything imaginable to try to help the pain, Im currently on percocet, mobic, flexeril and prednisone and can honestly say nothing is helping. Last week I had MRI scans of cervix thorax and lumbar spine. All resorting in normal readings yet the pain has not let up. Anyone who has gone thru this will agree Im very discouraged not pleased with my results. I have pain mostly in that area but also in neck and lower back periodically thus why i had all 3 mris. The feeling can be compared to having a softball in my back being stabbed with every twist, turn or bend. Now I feel my doctor is thinking Im making it up. She is saying it is muscular and trying more physical therapy. Can anyone help me?? I also reviewed my thorax MRI results and found an axial image of t8 t9 disc that when compared to online findings for normal appears to have a thin herniation that has made its way to my spinal cord, I am not a doctor but when compared to examples this does not look normal please be of help if possible! I can email the image if anyone needs a better look and tell me what they c.
  • I absolutely agree that you should have a discogram or maybe a ct/myelogram if the MRI doesn't show anything. The ct/myelogram was the gold standard before MRI's came around and they detect much more too. When I had an MRI once, it didn't show any problems with my facet joints, just other stuff going on like disc herniation and retrolisthesis. My surgeon had to clean up a lot of debris from all the arthritis in my facet joints during surgery, and he was surprised at this finding because it didn't show up on x-rays, MRI, or ct/myelogram. So you see that it's important to keep looking and not take no for an answer. I hope you find an answer for the thoracic pain your having and that you get help for it. Take care
  • wow, this helped me so much. I have 2 slipped discs and a chipped disc but it's nothing compared to the pain in my thoracic. UNBEARABLE.....
  • I have had the same problem. Severe pain in my thoracic spine and the mris show mild protrusions but no impingement. I also had a nerve conduction test that was normal. Any suggestions?
  • Weight bearing (positional) MRI maybe?

    I'm having one done because my laydown one isn't showing much and my symptoms increase a lot when weight bearing.

    Next will be CT/Myelogram if needed. Then Discogram to narrow down pain generator.

  • Oops! Posted in wrong place.
  • I normally am dealing with Sciatica, hip, buttock, leg pain all on the left side. I had discectomies done on 2 lumbar discs 2 years ago that didn't seem to help the pain. One disc one herniated profusely, and the other was just doing some bulging. I am having alot of scar tissue issues that I believe is keeping in the pain. I now also deal with pain around the surgery site in lower back occasionally. Now I have new symptoms in my upper back area. The thoriac area, right where my bra strap comes across my back. I feel like my back wants to break in half there. It feels like acid has been poured into it deeply. The acid heat runs into both of the backs of the tops of my arms. I get some cramping down the rest of my arms that isn't as bothersome. I find coming down the stairs jars my whole back now all the way down to my feet on both sides of my body. My left side is flared up a little higher than normal. I am experiencing some severe cramping in the right calf which is new. My balance is a little off. My neck is a little stiffer on movement on one side. If I raise my arms to brush my hair or reach for something I feel like someone is shoving a sharpened 2x4 into my mid shoulder area (The bra strap area) If I turn my head a certain way from my elbows down I get this quick tingling feeling but it isn't painful. Pain pills don't cut the burning pain. I have been icing and started on predisone to help with immflamation. This started after helping to push some furniture on sliders across carpet. I have not learned yet I guess what I shall not do anymore or can't do anymore. I am hoping it is muscular but afraid that it is disc problem in cervical or thoriac now. I have not gone to MD yet because I feel like a frequent flyer even though I always am a legit sick person when I go. I just hate going until the pain is too unbearable or something is terribly wrong. If it is muscular I hope that the next few days will show improvement if now then I will make the call. Does anyone ever had any similar symptoms?
  • bep1224, I replaced the battery in my car this past Saturday. As you wrote, "I have not learned yet I guess what I shall not do anymore or can't do anymore." Tuesday morning about 3 AM I woke up with the most intense burning pain I've ever had in the center of my upper back. "It feels like acid has been poured into it deeply" is a perfect description.

    I believe I have torn/ruptured at least two discs. I've ruptured discs before, and the experience is very similar, although the burning was not as bad before as it is this time. I also have "clicking" noise and feeling there now, which I've experienced with every other disc I've ever ruptured. Yesterday evening I had some pain/cramping under my arm pits, but so far today I haven't had that symptom. I just have the burning. It's early yet, though. I am afraid that as the disc nucleus material spreads out and the disc begins to lose height, I will start to have radiculopathy like you are having.

    Forgive me for stating the obvious, but I strongly recommend you avoid lifting anything heavy.

    If you go to Google and search for the word "dermatome", the first result will be a colored dermatome that shows which nerve innervates which parts of your body. It can help you determine at which level in your spine the problem exists. In reality, it's not always exactly as shown on the dermatome. Some people are "wired" a bit different from the norm, and there is some "intermixing" as I understand it.

    I haven't had an MRI yet, but I suspect even when I do it won't show anything significant. That's what I hate about MRIs. They're often a waste of time and money, but you don't know until you try.

  • i had mri, and he foun small herniation t6 t7. 9 of 10 surgeons say ,pain does not came from your herniation...ok so from what *hit i have pain...i am soooooo frustrating to live like this day by day...and the worst its now that pain goes in front of the chest. realy sharp pain,especialy when i make some move or lift "heavy-er"....do you or someone else have this issue?
  • SpineThoracic-I can't remember, but have you tried to get a second opinion from a different NS/OS?

    My T-pain wraps usually feels like some one is tightening a belt and radiating from the center of my upper back outward.

    But just right now it is shooting into my rib cage (back side) everytime I move at all. I was playing with my German Shepherd about 45 minutes ago- feeding him some snacks and I twisted in my chair and started this. My arms & legs feel like rubber.

  • spinethoracic, read the article at this link:


    It explains how a herniated or ruptured disc can cause pain.
  • My thoracic MRI is "unremarkable" too, according to my insurrance doctors. I was told that having my C6-7
    fused will help my horrible pain between the shoulder blades. It did not...In my case obtaining 2nd and 3rd opinion from my HMO consisted of doctors simply reading my record and stating that they are in aggreement with the first doctor. My suffering is going on for years and i almost gave up until i have found this information.


    It's hidden in the article especially if you are in so much pain, but if you take time it exlains how and why two or more doctors chose to follow the first advise. So i am scheduled for another opinion from the doctor that has no ties to my HMO (out of pocket), and have my hopes back at least for now. Maybe that's part of the problem for some of us.
  • Hi, I'm new to these forums and I'm not sure where to post but I thought I'd start here.
    I am desperate. I have had pain on my left side in the thoracic area of my back for 2 years now. It feels like its in the muscle, but my spine now hurts as well. It has slowly progressed and just keeps getting worse.
    It started bothering me only on the nights when I worked late (3AM-bartending). I don't recall any trauma except one night when I bent over and felt a pulling sensation. I didn't think anything of it as it didn't hurt afterwards and I still don't know if its related at all because it occurred a few weeks before the pain started. By the end of the nights when I had a long intense shift it would feel like the muscle between my shoulder blade and my spine was a giant ball of tense pain. Always got better with rest and wouldn't show up again until after another late night of work. I constantly feel the urge to twist and stretch but it never helps. Pain killers don't touch it. Slowly it has become more and more frequent until it is now painful after ANY activity (laundry,exercise, carrying my baby, etc) and only gets better if I lie down for awhile. Sitting doesn't alleviate it. I now also have pain in the vertebrae that are closest to this area. I have had a negative MRI, chiropractic treatments made it feel worse, and physical therapy has not helped at all. When my PT pushes directly on the area it is intensely painful. Ice and heat feel good but only temporarily. The pain comes and goes all throughout the day and is making me depressed. It really is affecting my quality of life and no one seems to have any ideas what it could be. Yesterday my pt had another pt evaluate me and afterwards they both looked at each other and shrugged and said "I don't know". Since this pain has started I have had my first child. The pain bothered me a lot during my pregnancy until I went on bed rest for a month. It didn't bother me at all during bed rest and then after the baby was born and I started carrying her around it came back with a vengeance and has since then it has become daily torture.
    Has anyone had a similar experience that was able to figure out what the problem was?
  • I broke my L10, T12, T11, and T9 ( most severe damage to the T11 and T12) in 1999. My back has been a constant source of pain and aggravation for several years now. I got an MRI done targeting this area May 2010, and my Ortho said that the results were generally negative. You can clearly see the deformity in the T11/T12 from the break, and some ar from the age of the injury. I have pretty constant moderate pain, and some episodes of severe pain (especially sitting at my desk all day) with numbness in my lower left leg. I was wondering if a weight bearing MRI/CT/X-ray would help show any further damage to this area that was not being picked up on the lie-down MRI? Also, does anyone else think it might be a good idea to get a discogram in that area as well?

  • I had an upright MRI. It showed more than the standard MRI, but not anything "significant". I think I wasn't in the right position when the test was done. If you have an opportunity to have an upright MRI, take time beforehand to try to find a position that you know will cause pain. Then when you go for the test try to get into that position.

    The thing about these imaging tests is that they require us to be completely still. There is no test I know of that shows what happens while we are moving. Until such a test comes along, I think a lot of us will continue to be frustrated by MRIs and other tests that are "negative", even though we have intense pain originating from our spine.
  • I didn't think they could remove fusion hardware once placed. I had a fusion on L4 L5 S1 area and still have pain. It seems like I have a lot of pressure in the thoracic area also now. Do they only remove it if you have a broken screw or rod?
  • In 2010, I was in a car wreck, rear ended. I tried everything to get better, bar surgery. Medicines, PT, Chiropractic, X-rays, MRI lying and standing, Holistic regimes, my GP sent me to pain management for injections-6 to be exact. All this went on until 2013. Gave in and saw NS, my findings after all the tests was that I had a couple really bad discs at C4/5 5/6.
    Ok, should have started with symptoms I guess......lol. Same as most of yours, especially the comment earlier read: " felt like acid was poured into a deep, deep hole right where my bra strap crosses", my original pain was in my thoracic, left side, between scapula and spine on left side, pain in left neck, shoulder, arms, fingers and circles around from thoracic left side to my front ribs. 2013 had 2 fusions (front), didn't help. NS sent me for CT, Xray flexion of neck, nerve root injection, nerve conduction....says I had the "mother of all spurs" in spinal canal on "back side" of C 6/7. That posterior surgery would need to be done to remove spur-nerve root injection in that area did give me 30 hours of relief. So I had the posterior Surgery, June of this year. The plan was to make a one inch incision and remove spur and if he needed to do more to go ahead. I have a 4 inch scar, he had to do a fusion at C 6/7, remove mother spur, several others and I can't remember what else. So, here we are in Oct 2014, my symptoms have from 2010 til now continued to worsen. When I went to see NS last week, he asked if I was gonna beat him up. Ha! He said he wanted me to do a cervical myelogram and I added thoracic, as well and he agreed. I'm scheduled this coming Wednesday and I am already, ready to cancel. I would like y'all's opinion of that. I've vowed I want let him operate on me again, even though he is really good. Plus, they don't operate, usually on thoracic anyway, if that's where my problem lies. I am 49, had to take disability retirement from my most favorite job on earth, at age 45. Wasn't a workmens comp injury. I've always been a very hard worker, very active, very devoted to helping others, very physical. Now I have minimal social life, driving irritates my injury, plus cannot medicate and drive. I'm suffering and feel like my life is wasting. I love my Faith and if it wasn't for that I would not be able to cope with this mentally. So if you are going through this too-Protect your Faith. Any helpful comments will be most appreciated. Pray for me too. God is Great!
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