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Confused and scared about new thoracic back pain

Lady DiLLady Di Posts: 4
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:56 AM in Upper Back Pain, Thoracic
Hello everyone:

So glad to have found this website and all of you!

I have a long history of lower back problems, which started 30 years in my early 20's with a herniated disc (L5/S1), laminectomy, and subsequent arthritic changes in the lower spine. It's been pretty normal for me to have flare-ups at least 2 or 3 times per year - the kind that can usually be taken care of with a few days bedrest and massive doses of anti-inflammatories. One learns to live with it.

Three weeks ago, however, I started with an immobilizing pain in the middle of my back. Have been to my primary doctor, who ordered x-rays, and gave my steroids, muscle relaxants and mobic. Took them for 2 weeks with bedrest - no relief at all. The primary dr sent me to physical therapy. I'm also seeing a chiropractor since the pain started - no relief at all. Chiropractor ordered an MRI which I had done yesterday so I dont know the result of that yet. I guess my next step, depending on results of the MRI, may be a spine specialist?

I'm hoping the MRI shows something, because this pain is
acute - stabbing, burning, and it's scary not to know what it is. It's also confusing, because it sometimes goes away for an hour or so, after resting, but as soon as I get up and try to do anything it starts again. I hve not been able to go to work for 2 weeks, and I'm starting to think this is not going away anytime soon.

From what I've read here, many have experienced a never ending maze of doctors, tests, etc., and it takes forever to even get a diagnosis, let alone some type of relief. Does anyone has any suggestions on how to go about getting some answers?

Thank you all for being there, and I wish you all a pain-free evening.



  • sunny1966ssunny1966 VIRGINIAPosts: 1,385
    Hi and welcome to Spine-health! I'm sorry you're having so much pain and understand your confusion and fear. Try not to panic until you get the results from your mri.

    The type of pain you're having can have many different causes. I too suffer from undiagnosed mid back/chest pain that I *think* is from my thoracic spine. At least the mri can either confirm or rule out that area.

    Good luck and keep us posted. I hope you're having less pain today.

  • Hi Debbie:

    Thanks for your reply, and I do hope you are feeling well today.

    Well today I initially felt somewhat better in that at least I got some kind of validation that there might really be something causing my pain, and that its not all in my head.

    The preliminary mri report:

    T2-T3 and T3-T4 2 mm spondylolisthesis with bulging of discs; disc protrusions at T5-T6, indenting on cord anteriorly towards right and left, right paracentral disc herniation at T7-T8 (4x3mm;), marginal osteophytes at T8-T9...bulging disc at T10-T11

    I say initially, because the doctor who ordered the exam (a chiropractor), after reviewing the results, told me that everybody gets most of these things as they age (I am 58), that its all basically arthritic changes, but these findings did not merit why I should have such intense debilitating pain.
    He made me feel as though I were exaggerating my symptoms, and that it couldnt be as bad as I say it is. My primary doctor had more or less the same reaction as the chiropractor.

    I had already been reading alot of similar posts here about doctors minimizing one's pain, so I guess I should have been prepared. But I wasnt, and couldnt get out of the office fast enough to be able to break down in tears in my car.

    So anyway, I got that frustration out. So does this mean that everyone is supposed to be crippled by the time they are 60, and that we should not complain about it? Sorry, just venting.

    If you were me, where would you go next? An orthopedist? Spine specialist? The looney bin 8} ?
    Thanks for listening!
  • sunny1966ssunny1966 VIRGINIAPosts: 1,385
    I'm heading for the looney bin so you'd have company there. :D

    Seriously though it's up to you which type doctor you see. Me, I had a neurosurgeon for my neck but would/will see an Orthopedic spine specialist for my back whenever I can make myself do it. My primary doctor treated me the same as yours so I've been "suffering in silence" so to speak just to keep from being made to feel like I'm exaggerating or crazy. (This was over lumbar issues-I haven't seen him about my thoracic type pain)

    Hopefully the doctor you choose to see next will be more understanding and can treat you in the best way possible. If you ever need to vent I'm here for you! Frustration should be my middle name so, yep, I understand.

    Let me know what you find out.
  • I agree that it depends on the doctor. I'm 29 years old and started having mid-back pain last October. My PCP ordered and MRI and called me the next day saying, "you need to see an orthopaedic surgeon. Your MRI shows you have significant disc disease." So I schedule an appt with the orthopaedic surgeon, and he acted as if it was nothing and wasn't even convinced my symptoms were related to the several herniated discs I had throughout my t-spine, even though two of them were definitely compressing my spinal cord. After a couple of epidural injections and nothing helping, he wanted me to get a second opinion with a neurosurgeon, who finally took me seriously. I had a CT myelogram done, which showed the discs were worse than they appeared on the MRI. The NS was recommending surgery. I got a second opinion who also recommended surgery, and ultimately I had the surgery with him.

    Now I'm having problems with another disc and the MRI showed it has gotten worse, but it's still not compressing my spinal cord. My mom asked the NS how I can be in so much pain if it's not compressing the spinal cord, and he said that it's probably compressing the nerve root, which would cause the symptoms I'm having. I just finished a second round of steroids, and I'm going to be meeting with my PM doc on Tuesday to talk about doing another epidural injection. If those don't work, it's back to the OR for me! Ugh!

    Anyway, I would recommend meeting with a spine specialist with MRI films in hand. You need to find a doctor who will take you seriously. It doesn't matter what the MRI shows...you are having real pain, which can not be ignored. Best of luck to you!
  • I don't know how I missed this post. Sorry.

    Definitely follow up with a fellowship trained neuro or ortho surgeon (get a couple opinions if you can).

    There have always been the old thought on thoracic spine issues (they don't exist since this part of the spine is stable). The new thoughts that these are most rare and dangerous. There is very little room in the spinal canal and very poor blood supply a problem can arise if the herniations or lesions cut off the blood supply off. I have plenty of links to share with you if you are interested in researching. Just pm me.

    I would drop your chiro and maybe your pcp and find someone who you can trust. The pain you are feeling is real and I can totally relate. My PM treats me excellent as does my NS. My pcp has nothing to do with my care as far as my back is concerned.

    Hang in there ((hugs)),


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