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Chronic and Debilitating Upper Back Pain

bcm3ubbcm3u Posts: 4
edited 01/14/2016 - 10:33 PM in Chronic Pain
I have been dealing with chronic pain for almost 2 years now, and it has finally become unbearable. I wanted to see if anyone else has had anything like this, and how they handled it.

Two years ago I was training primarily in a crossfit-style exercise program (sub-20min workouts, sprints, heavy core lifts), and one day I decided to do a heavy bench press. I lifted, completed, and sat up, thinking to myself that it felt like I pulled something, I couldn't quite turn my head all the way to the right, and decided to call it a day.

It was a feeling like you slept on your neck wrong, with a knotty ball over my right scapula. I'd had similar things occur in the past, but they always went away in a day or two.

This issue has never gone away. Every single day since this event I have been in excruciating pain in my right scapula region, sometimes up my into my neck/skull. The symptoms include:
* knotty, rope-like bands in varying locations from day to day (rhomboids, sub-scapularis, upper traps, lower traps)
* occasional (about once a week) tingling/numbness in my trapezius area
* headaches/ shortness of breath

I started by going to a doctor who injected cortisone into the muscle and told me to go to physical therapy. Ultimately this did nothing. My next stop was an orthopoedic surgeon who diagnosed it as bursitis (despite being an injury that came on suddenly, and despite having symptoms that respond well to massage). I have since been to numerous physiatrists, chiropractors, PTs, massage therapists, and accupuncturists. The only things that seem to help with any regularity are:

* rolling on a lacrosse ball
* myofascial release massage (although it is only a temporary solution, and the pain comes back each week if I don't continue to go to sessions)
* stretching (although this only helps to a small extent, and on days when the pain is very bad, it seems like no amount of stretching solves the problem).

Things that seem to have little effect are electro-stim, ultrasound, and movement-based therapy. I continue to have snapping and clicking in the area, on top of the extreme muscle tightness. At this point I have ceased all physical activity and exercise altogether, and havent had a workout routine for about a year now.

The only thing I have yet to pursue are botox injections into the muscle to halfway-paralyze them and prevent them from spasming. I find this idea pretty frightening due to the permanent weakness this would likely cause in the area.

Has ANYONE ever seen/had anything like this? If so, how did you deal with it? I'm at a total loss as to how to proceed, and the pain is at a point where I am struggling even sitting at my desk all day!

Thanks in advance.


  • I should add that I have had 3 MRIs (scapula, cervical spine, and thoracic spine) and everything has come up completely clear. That is the most perplexing part.
  • Sometimes raidologists miss things in the mri.. Have other doctors looked at the actual MRI? I am post op (cervical fusion) and I am dealing with a lot of muscle spasms/tightness. I currently take zanaflex, it is a muscle relaxer and at this point it is a miracle drug for me. Are you taking any meds?
    ACDF C4-5 June 23rd, 2011

    Another surgery in the near future. I am 26 years old.

    Current Meds- Norco 7.5/325, Cymbalta 60mg, Gabapentin, Adderall 20mg
  • I have attempted to take muscle relaxers (carisoprodol and cyclobenzaprene), but both have made me drowsy and "off" at work, which is simply not an option.

    Do you feel you are able to operate at 100% capacity on zanaflex?
  • I used Zanaflex for over 2 years and it really messed me up. It would go through 4 -6 hour cycles where I would have super low blood pressure and then super high blood pressure and rapid pulse. My body kept trying to "adjust" the mechanism and nearly blew a gasket. It also made me unreliable as to being able to drive or be somewhere at a specific time. I would generally have to take a nap an hour after each dose and I had no choice, almost to the point of stopping and sleeping wherever I was at right at that moment.

    As far what you describe experiencing, yes I can certainly relate to it and have suffered many years now from something very similar. I tried multiple botox injections in my neck and they never helped me. In fact they actually made me feel worse. Of course everyone is different, so you may find it provides you some relief.

    I use Baclofen, Skelaxin, Amrix on a rotating program of 3 months each. I use moist heat nearly every day. My SCS actually provides me assistance in keeping my head from turning like Linda Blair's. From time to time I get trigger point injections in my shoulder around the scapula to relieve the inflammation and break up the knots.

    Hope some of this helps,

  • Haglandc - a couple questions

    * How did your pain initially start? Do you have any idea what caused it?

    * How long have you been dealing with the pain?

    * Do you feel your treatments have helped decrease the pain so you can sufficiently function in your daily life?

    * Do you exercise?

    * Do you feel the treatments are leading you to a clear end in sight, or have you been told that this is permanent?

    Sorry for all the questions, I'm just interested to know if I can ever expect relief!

    Thanks in advance.

  • * How did your pain initially start? Do you have any idea what caused it?

    A series of accidents, primarily hitting my head against a car and the asphalt when the car pulled out in front of the motorcycle I was riding.

    * How long have you been dealing with the pain?

    Started having chronic pain from this in 1998

    * Do you feel your treatments have helped decrease the pain so you can sufficiently function in your daily life?


    * Do you exercise?

    3 to 5 days a week.

    * Do you feel the treatments are leading you to a clear end in sight, or have you been told that this is permanent?

    Well, it depends on what a person chooses to believe. I believe that the treatments and my own personal rehab program are a great combination for getting away from the "no end in sight" frame of mind

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