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Mystery thoracic pain is ruining my life!

efriendlyeefriendly Posts: 9
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:53 AM in Upper Back Pain, Thoracic
Hi, I'm new to these forums and I'm not sure where to post so I thought I'd just start a new post.
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. I'm worried that I have cancer or something. 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?


  • First let me say welcome to spine-health. Have a look around and you will find many dealing with pain, and still looking for answers. What type of doctor is treating you now? What type of doctor have you gone to for a diagnoses? Have you tried any muscle relaxers, and if so which ones? Have you tried a tens unit? When the MRI was done which part of your spine was it on, and what did it say? If you don't know exactly what it said, I would get a copy of that report. How long ago was the MRI done? What medicine did you try so far? How long have you been in physical therapy? Is this your first attempt at physical therapy for this issue?

    Maybe with some more information someone might have some answers that can help you out. Just thought I would stop by and welcome you to spine-health.
  • Thank you! Finding this forum has made me feel like maybe I'm not crazy. There ARE lots of other people with thoracic pain on these forums that don't know what the cause is.
    Right now I am going through twelve sessions of pt as prescribed by an orthopedic doctor that I have only seen once. It is my first attempt at pt. The orthopedist told me to go through the therapy and if it didn't work to come back and see him. So far it hasn't helped and I only have two sessions left. I have been to my family doctor a number of times, a chiropractor three or four times, the orthopedic dr, and now pt. My family Dr. recommended all the basic stuff... Ice, heat, anti-inflammatoriess, and an MRI and when all that failed she referred me to the chiropractor and then the orthopedist.
    Medicine is a problem... I suppose I should try a muscle relaxer but I am currently breastfeeding and I don't feel safe taking one. My Dr. did prescribe me two drugs to try if I wanted to, one called Baclofen and one called metaxalone, but she did say that they aren't the best thing to take while breastfeeding and I was afraid to try them for that reason. This also presents a problem with the anti inflammatory I was prescribed by the orthopedist (nabumetone) and so I have been taking motrin every six hours instead which of course doesn't really help. Tylenol with Codeine takes away some of the residual soreness in the spine area but not in the main center of the pain which is that area on the left side of my back..especially if I am doing an activity that aggrivates it.
    I don't think I've tried a Tens unit...I'm not sure what that is. At pt they have tried electrical stimulation, ultrasound heat, and ice massage, but mostly they just do manual manipulation.
    The MRI was done on September 23, 2010... it was of the T spine and left scapula. I don't know what some of this means, but...Both of them said that there was no abnormal marrow signal seen. The t spine and cord were unremarkable with no focal disc herniation seen or mass effect appreciated. No acute fracture or subluxation.The scapula was unremarkable with no effusion or rotator cuff tear with retraction identified. No displaced labral tear seen. It says an incidental was made of shotty lymph nodes in the axillary region. I am going to ask what that last bit means when I go back to the orthopedist
    Thank you for the welcome. :).
  • I just went to my doctor's website and it turns out he is technically called an MD in physical medicine and rehabilitation, not an orthopedic doctor. I'm confused about the difference, but he is who I was referred to. It says his specialty is pain management. I'm wondering if I need to go to an Orthopedic Dr?
    Yes, PT seems like a waste of money to me but I'm desperate so I'll do whatever I'm told basically and hope that something will work. They haven't told me any exercises to do at home even when I asked them. It seems like a lot of money to go in and basically have them push on my back for a few minutes.
    My MRI was without contrast. I'll ask about that when I go back to the doctor.
    Thank you sooo much for the advice.
  • Thanks again...I don't really feel any kind of popping or pressure.
    I only have two more sessions of pt before I'm supposed to go back to the Dr but after my last pt session it has hurt A LOT worse...even through the night which it never did before.

    I was trying to research online and found something about myofascial pain syndrome and trigger points so I'm going to ask about that. It's just so hard to pinpoint because it is a specific area, but sometimes it feels like it could be bone or joint related, though most of the time it feels like it's a muscle problem.

    I guess I should say that I am 33 and otherwise healthy except for high blood pressure that I've had since I was 23. My hips have also been really bothering me lately and that pain started after I started going to yoga classes... it could be tendonitis or something from starting an activity like that after being pretty inactive.
    The back pain makes me not want to do anything at all, but I still generally do everything anyway and deal with it. I'm not going to not carry my daughter when she needs me to, but sometimes it literally gets to the point where I can't hold her for as long as she wants and that is a terrible feeling. I want to go back to work but the thought of how much it will hurt makes me feel full of dread and depression. I go around with this really great life that should make me totally happy and content, but there is always this cloud over it. I think it's especially frustrating to me because it seems like every time in my life that I have ever had a health problem it is always something that appears to be a mystery to my doctors and is usually never solved. Like my high blood pressure. Years of testing and speculation and different doctors and the conclusion is that I just happened to be unlucky enough to have severely high blood pressure at a young age (and with none of the risk factors for hbp) and have to take meds forever. The thought of having to deal with this pain forever (which it sometimes feels like what is going to happen) makes me feel scared and overwhelmed.
  • Oh no! I'm sorry to hear that. Panic attacks are NOT fun to deal with. Are your back probelms diagnosed or are you searching for answers too? Do you have trigger points or myofascial? I just learned about them.
  • Lately I have been seriously worried that I have cancer. I had a dream that I had bone cancer and then I got up and researched on the internet. It worries me that nothing is helping and it seems to be progressing worse and worse and my physical therapists always seem so puzzled when the pain is the same or worse at my next visit. Considering that I had a normal mri and normal bloodwork, I don't know if I am just being paranoid. But in the paste few weeks it has gone from only hurting after activity to hurting through the night and first thing in the morning and all day long. Is it spreading or is it from being torqued around on by the p.t.? I dont know but I'm losing my mind!
  • I should say that by "spreading" I mean that now a larger section of my spine hurts even worse than the original pain in the left side shoulder blade area. It hurts constantly and is not alleviated by anything. Also, now it sort of feels like the muscles hurt all over my upper and middle back at different times during the day.
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