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Help please, thoracic spineys

jellyhalljjellyhall Posts: 4,373
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:47 AM in Upper Back Pain, Thoracic

I am trying to see if my symptoms have been shared by any other thoracic sufferers.

For a long time now (over a year) I have been suffering with pain and tightening at my thoracic levels. I have often felt that a band is being pulled tight around me.

A couple of weeks ago, I was sent home from work (less than a week after returning after 5 1/2 months off due to my lumbar fusion), with horrible pain at my T8/9 level, from the back wrapping around, under my right arm to the front.

On Friday, I had been feeling the now very familiar tightening pain over the top of my stomach, right across my abdomen (but not in the back). It was just under my bra. During the day, the pain got worse and worse and I had the feeling of having eaten far too much almost like indigestion. I even took some indigestion tablets to see if that would help.

By 9.00 pm, I went to lie down on the bed to see if that would help. By 11.00pm I was in terrible pain and didn't know what to do with myself. I would liken it to being in childbirth! My hubby was very concerned about me so phoned the doctor for an out of hours visit. 2 hours later, the doctor arrived. I was still in horrible pain. He was puzzled as my abdomen wasn't tender in any area, so he discounted problems with my appendix, stomach or gall bladder. He said if it didn't subside within a couple of hours to call again. I took some more pain killers.

At about 3.30am we called again. :''(
I was told to go to the hospital emergency department, and that going in our car would be much quicker than an ambulance. I was thoroughly examined and no diagnosis was made, although they said that this would need to be investigated further. They gave me some Tramadol to help with the pain and antibiotics for a UTI that they identified.

Has anyone had this level of pain and symptoms from their thoracic problems? The pain was at the same level as a protruding disc slightly pressing on my cord that was seen on an MRI scan taken 16 months ago.

This pain was far worse than anything I have ever felt before. :S



  • Jellyhall,

    Good morning. I hope you are feeling better as I type this. My issues are DDD and Spurs affecting T8/9/10, and the report also states I have "multi level Arthrosis throughout the thoracic region - but the specific levels weren't identified. Yummy.

    At any rate, I have a band under my bra/but above my belly as well. More of it on the sides and always in the front, but in addition to that I have my "burning ring of fire" of the skin in that area. Lyrica doesn't touch it for some reason. Since the 'ring' isn't always 360, my NS says it is probably Neurapathy from the Arthrosis! Sigh.. Nothing definitive of course!

    The DDD is T8/9 and T9/10 - the disks are solid black, but per the MRI, nothing is on nerves, and the spurs are at T8/9 - but not compromising nerves there either. Somethings gotta be hitting them somewhere at those levels! (G)

    The happy yet sad part about issues like mine, is they are not to a level that surgery will be used to help. I say happy because at that level, it is pretty severe and nasty to go in there, so I *cough* sort of live with it. I wear a rib brace so that the flexing of the skin, my bra nor my clothes pinch or rub there. If I don't, just breathing sets me into major burning waves of pain. Not sure if any of this helps, except maybe validate the level and the possible affects?

    On rare occasions I also get a 'stabbing' like feeling center punch in my back in that same area. I mainly see that if I slouch a lot. Take care, hope you are feeling better.

    PCTF C4 - T2, Laminectomies C5, C6 & C7. Severe Palsy left arm/hand.
  • Yes, I know exactly what you're talking about... the "ring" of pain at the thoracic level. I have 7 herniations in my T-spine, along with a syrinx (pocket of CSF within the spinal cord itself) and some mild scoliosis which has just popped up on my last MRI. My pain radiates around my rib cage (that "tightening" feeling.

    Yesterday, for the first time, I had that feeling of pain around to my abdomen, and a feeling that I had severely overeaten. It last about 30 minutes, then gradually went away.

    My problem is that I already have hardware in my neck and my L-spine along with both new and continuing pain in both of those areas. I don't want to become the bionic woman with fusions all the way through my back, and I doubt any reputable surgeon would consider surgery. (I know my neurosurgeon won't do it.)

    Do you take medication for nerve pain? I take Lyrica 300 mg each day; it seems to help a lot with the nerve pain, but I think a higher dose is needed. I recently tried gabapentin (Neurontin), but I had to stop at 600 mg per day (900 mg was prescribed) because I developed terrible ringing in my left ear. I stopped, the ringing lessened. I tried to take it again, same thing happened, so now I'm back to Lyrica. (The switch was because of the co-pay on Lyrica, which is 5 thimes that of gabapentin.

    I hope your symptoms subside soon. Thoracic pain is terrible, I know. Wishing you the best.

  • Oh my dear friend Jelly, I am so sorry you are having such a hard time! This is just aweful news!

    How are you feeling now? I hope you have been getting relief from the pain. It sounds like what you are feeling is very similiar to others who have thoracic issues!

    I wish I could help! But I am here for you, to offer any type of emotional support that you may need! :)

    Hang in there! Will you be going to work tomorrow? Keeping you in my thoughts and prayers!

    Gentle, supportive, loving hugs!

  • Thank you all so much for taking the time to offer help. :-)

    I managed to sleep quite well last night, as the pain levels had really fallen to a manageable level. I)

    This morning, the pain wasn't too bad, although I kept feeling unwell and a bit faint. This evening, the pain is creeping up again, this time with pain around my back too (It was only in the front on Friday night). Now I am able to compare and think that it is the same pain, but just not so severe now.

    On Friday night, I was struggling with my breathing, but assumed it was because I was in so much pain. At the hospital, my blood pressure was very high. They took it twice and asked if I suffered with high blood pressure. I think that was due to the pain I was in.

    All the information that you give me is so useful to know which of my very many symptoms I need to tell the doctor next week.

    My lumbar fusion had being going so well, I should have known that it was too good to be true. :S

    I am getting nerve pain and other symptoms in my legs and feet. I suppose that could also be due to my thoracic problems. I know that all the pain and symptoms in my arms and hands must be from my neck.

    I do hope that I manage to sleep tonight. (|:
    At least I now have some strong pain killers should I have a return of this awful pain.
  • oh i am so sorry to hear that,because i also have this feeling in my back...is terrible :(
    i hope somehow we will find a way to live normaly with this pain...
  • Thinking of you today and wondering how you are doing.

    I hope the pain is more managable. I am so sorry this is happening to you! Hang in there, keeping you in my prayers! :)
  • Hi Everyone,I just found out that the pain I have been expierencing was from the thoracic part of my spine.After reading these posts you all described all the symptons I have.I had thought I had pulled a muscle or something,It is just like a tightening around my lower chest.Sometimes I feel like I am having a heart attack.It just comes in waves and I just have to hold my breath til it goes away.I have a lot of lower back problems,surgery etc. and I know after a dexa scan that I have a compression fracture in my mid back and this may be what is causing these spasams.O well,I hope they don't worsen that is all I need!Hope you all have a pain free day!

  • Hi Jelly,

    I've not been on the boards for weeks and am so sorry to hear that you are now battling thoracic issues. It ain't fair!!!! I hope that you had a better day and that the pain is decreasing.


  • Lovely to hear from you again :-)
    My physio also said that I have worked so hard to get back to normal, that it is just not fair.
    I am still having the pain around the front of my abdomen at bra strap level, but it is not at such an intense level. It does make me feel like I don't want to eat anything, so perhaps I'll lose some weight! /:)

  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 9,839
    I can say easily that the thoracic ones are the most difficult to deal with and can be the most painful of all.

    For starters, for years, everyone believed that you could not have problems in the thoracic area, since those discs are connected to the rib cage, therefor are very strong. And IF you did have a problem, it wasnt going to be painful.

    Well, there are so many out here that can say that is hogwash! What bothered me the most (and still does) about thoracic problems is that there are not many things you can do to reduce the pain and discomfort.

    Surgery for my 4 herniated Thoracic discs were ruled out for two reasons:
    1 - My spine from previous lumbar and cervical surgeries was too unstable
    2 - Thoracic surgery is not a simple procedure

    The surgery has made a lot of improvements. From a few years ago, when it was barbaric. Coming in from the front, opening up your chest, cracking your breastbone, deflating a lung and moving it aside to get to the discs. I dont think so!

    Plus, none of my doctors really believed I would get that much relief. After many years of treating it with physical/aqua therapy, ESIs, Acupuncture, traction, etc... the only thing that has helped me was Deep Tissue Massage. But for me, that was because my Rhomboid deep muscle had become so rigid over the years, that it keep any flexibility from those T-discs. About 18 months of DTM treatment and I started to get some relief from the pain.

    But it is one spinal area that will continue to pop up and cause havoc for the smallest of reasons.

    Sleep, getting comfortable, chairs, etc all become something of a dream only.

    Now, thats my view dealing with thoracic problems over these years. You will read some good success stories from other members here with thoracic problems.

    Good luck, dont give up. Find some treatment that can give you some relief
    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
  • Dear Jelly,

    Like the other ladies have posted, thoracic pain is absolutely horrible.

    I am so sorry to hear that you are suffering with this kind of pain (and, of course, everyone else).

    What you have described is exactly what I battle with 24/7. It will sometimes let up, to where I can get in the pool and feel some relief, but most of my days are spent wrapped in heat with Lidoderm patches taped to my back.

    The best way I can describe to my doctors what my thoracic area feels like when it acts up good, is that of a very hard contraction felt during child-birth. My back gets hard and tight... and it seems to take forever before I can get it to relax just a little bit. With child-birth, I at least got some breathers... with these thoracic spasms, I don't get any kind of breather for sometimes hours. And, like you and the others, it just wraps itself around to my front upper abdominal area and also my sternum. When I get in a super bad spasm, I get the crushing sensation throughout my sternum and it makes it difficult to breathe. At that point, it feels like what others describe as having a heart attack. These crushing sensations have increased over the past couple of months, so my PM doctor sent me to a Cardiologist to have my heart checked out with a chemical stress test, as well. My heart is in excellent condition and he told me the crushing sensations I feel is called "Costochondritis". The fascia all along my sternum is so tender to the touch and when I try to massage it, it feels like bee stings.

    I had my first visit to the ER since December of 2008, just two weeks ago. Like you, I could not get myself comfortable at all. My lumbar area was in excrutiating pain, as well as my thoracic area. I have a history of UTI's, kidney stones and also became septic about 3 years ago. I thought maybe I had a kidney infection, so off to the ER we went. Turned out my urine was crystal clear (yay!) and the attending ER doctor told me I was "locked up" in very hard spasms. They gave me a good dose of anti-nausea medication (I suffer chronic nausea from my pain and do have medication at home I take), several doses of Dilaudid via IV and Valium for my muscle spasms. My heart rate went from 125 to 80 when I was released a few hours later. They took a lot of blood work and I just remembered that I need to go get the results... lol. It must have came back okay, otherwise they would have called me.

    Once my PM doctor caught wind of what transpired at the ER, she asked me how the Valium worked on my muscle spasms. I told her it really did relax my spasms. She then prescribed me a hefty dose of Valium to take, in addition to my Flexeril, when I feel a hard spasm coming on. At first, she had me take the maximum dose of Valium for one week to get ahold of the outrageous spasms. I was beyond knocked out by taking that much Valium, but I tell you... it worked. Whenever I feel those hard contractions coming on, I take a Valium with my Flexeril, break-thru pain meds, wrap my infrared heating pad around me and elevate my legs on my wedge. I close my eyes and do a lot of deep breathing.

    My thoracic area doesn't take pretty pictures any more. I can tell you that my fusion looks great! I dislocated my spine at T11, T12 and he did a marvelous job of putting that back in place. The worst part of my thoracic area is my T6, T7, T8 areas. I took a look at my last thoracic CT and I don't care to look at that thing again. I just kind of "go" with my daily pain and when I have a good day, I am out and about either holding on to Mike's arm, holding onto a cart or using my walker.

    Heat seems to help me with the hard contractions. I should say "spasms" rather than contractions, but they honestly feel like contractions... lol.

    What advice I can give you until you see your doctor would be to use heat and/or ice, if you are prescribed muscle relaxers and anti-inflammatories... take those religiously, elevate your legs, take your pain meds as prescribed, and a very good investment is purchasing an infrared heating pad. Charry is who turned me on to the infrared heating pad and it delivers heat 2 1/2 inches into the muscles. Ahhh... it is such a great device! I also was prescribed a TENS unit a few weeks ago, but I use that mainly on my hips and knees. I have used it on my thoracic area, but I need to take care of my other pain areas too. Aqua therapy feels awesome on the thoracic area. I take a noodle and just float to relieve the pressure on my thoracic spine. Lidoderm patches work really, really good when placed on my rib cages.

    Please keep us posted and again, I am so very sorry you are having troubles in the thoracic area. It is so difficult to find comfortable positions when you are in full spasms both front and back. But, once the meds take affect and the heat starts to penetrate... it calms the spasms.

    Oh! Nerve pain... I battle with that in these areas as well. If you are on any kind of nerve medication, I wouldn't skip any doses until the pain starts to subside. My worst nerve pain is in my fractured tailbone area and legs, but the Neurontin does help the thoracic area too.

    I wish you less pain and I will be praying for you, sweety.

    Hugs to you and everyone else,

    Tammy >:D<

  • I am new here & you are the first post I've read that has a bulge that is contacting the cord in thoracic area. I do also - T5-6 , 2 others in thoracic also (I do not have infront of me - infact I'm lying down w/laptop trying to type this) I was about to post questions asking for help myself. My pain feels like a knife in the back at the bra area & I'm assuming that is the one close to the cord.. Mri report said contacting but not compressing - - I'm wondering - if it were compressing - - would that mean we'd be paralized?? I've been told not to bend or lift heavy items. I'm in horrific pain tonight & like you need to know HOW to get relief. . My Dr basically wrote me off - - (you can't have surgery - so nothing he can do) Also every lumbar disc has bulge along with schonor's node & I have DDD.
    I have also had the upper ab pain, bloating, etc & I can only eat 1 good meal a day - I have had my stomach checked & it's okay - I have wondered was it coming from my thoracic - - but how in the world would thoracic pain cause the full feeling / not being able to eat like prior??

    Can you sit?? Sitting is really giving me a problem - especially from late afternoon to night is unbearable lately. I think I have another disc out since the mri.

    What are we going to do - with all of them going out?

    I don't know about you but I can't take the pain any more than what this is right now - it's to the max.

    I'd like to hear back from you & about the one that is close to your cord - how it effects you.

  • The MRI scan that show my T8/9 disc slightly pressing on my cord was taken 16 months ago. At that time, I wasn't having too much trouble from it, it was my lumbar spine that was giving me all the trouble.

    About 6 months before the MRI scan was done, by chiro saw in an x-ray, that I had osteophytes in my thoracic spine. I knew nothing then, and cheerfully said 'but it isn't causing any problems'. I could tell by his response that he thought at some point it would prove to be a problem.

    Since my fusion in March this year, both my neck and thoracic areas have been giving me more trouble. My physio says it is because my lumbar spine is fixed, that now I am noticing them.

    I saw a doctor yesterday, who thinks my pain might be from an infected gall bladder (I have a fever too). So I am going to have all sorts of blood tests to check my liver, thyroid, electrolytes, amylase +++++++++ (can't remember the others) and also will be having an ultrasound of my gall bladder, kidneys and something else.

    It will be interesting to see if anything shows up. I have read that thoracic problems at my level are often misdiagnosed as gall bladder problems. If I had to chose, I think I would go with the gall bladder. That would be much easier to sort out!!

  • Dear Jelly,

    I hope it proves to be the gallbladder and that it can be resolved quickly. Keep strong and let us know what the testing shows when you can. You're in my prayers,


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