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Years of lower back pain...Now my upper back??

Lala329LLala329 Posts: 283
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:39 AM in Chronic Pain
Hi everyone!

I'm a little concerned today because I have developed a new pain. I am recovering from SI fusion surgery, and I am doing great. My lower back feels better than it has in years and I'm only 3 months out, so I'm super excited about this.

I was recently cleared to start swimming again (with a pull buoy so I don't kick too much) and have started out very slowly (2x a week, 15 minutes max in the pool). I immediately noticed that my right scapula felt funky in the back, and now I'm to the point where I have really bothersome pain all around my right shoulder blade in my upper back. I know I am deconditioned because I had three months off from swimming. Prior to my surgery I was swimming regularly and have never had any upper back troubles.

My symptoms in my low back are on the left, and it was my left SI joint that was fused. I know my lower back is weak on the left side and has been for years from the pain, so I'm wondering if this pain in the upper right is related? I know a lot of the muscles get crossed as they compensate for areas of weakness, so does it make sense that with chronic lower left sided back pain the upper right side would also be problematic?

I guess I'm hoping this is just pain from being deconditioned, but in the back of my mind I can't help but worry that I may be developing some type of chronic upper back thing. It has only been going on a couple of weeks, but I want to make sure I take good care of it. I figure the usual rest and ice (no anti-inflammatories because of the fusion). Anything else I should be doing?

I'm going to ask my PT about it, but I won't be going back until the week after Thanksgiving so I figured in the meantime I could check in with my fellow spineys :) Thanks guys!


  • I would be willing to bet it is a soft tissue problem that is a result of muscles etc. having to learn new positions after your surgery.

    Everyone thinks swimming is a great exercise, but in most cases, it isn't that great for those of us with spine issues. It is almost impossible to swim without the back being in a position of extension. Then to make matters worse, both the legs and arms are extended which puts more stress on the discs.

    When in pain, the body naturally compensates. In the case of the back, the muscles tense in an attempt to guard the injured area. It is very normal to have this result in muscle imbalances and ligaments and tendons that have either stretched or compressed, depending on which side they are located on.

    I'm sure your PT will be able to help you work out these issues and can recommend a routine for gradually easing back into the swimming.

    If you've strained a muscle, it can take some time to recover. Don't get discouraged...maybe try to cut back for awhile and then very gradually start again. Maybe there are some things you can do with light hand weights that will help re-strengthen those muscles.

    I've been working almost a year with a guy I call my "rearranger" in an attempt to learn proper alignment
    and to rebalance my muscles, etc. I am not allowed to do really basic things like crossing my legs when I sit, etc. I have to concentrate so hard to remember to always stand squarely, with both feet pointing straight ahead, weight placed equally on both legs...being careful to not stand with more weight on one side than the other, etc. It is such a nuisance but I do truly believe it will help me in the long run.

    Talk to your PT. I really don't think you have anything to worry about.

  • Thanks Gwennie! You are always the voice of reason :)

    It definitely makes sense that with my newly stabilized pelvis all the muscles are having to re-learn how to work. I think you're right that it is just a strained muscle because it is slowly getting better each day. I'll talk to my PT about it next week, but in the meantime thank you so much for helping put my mind at ease!
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