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Any ideas?

Hi I'm new here. I don't know if this should go in cervical pain or thoracic so I will start here.

So quick list of symptoms.

Constant dull ache and tightness with occasional burning between shoulder blades to the right of my spine.
Lack of mobility in neck.
Top of right shoulder now 2-3 inches lower than left shoulder when standing straight and relaxed.
Spasms of the muscles in neck/shoulder/upper back preventing the raising of upper arm/moving of head.
These also cause pulling ear down toward shoulder and shoulder up toward ear. Usually on right side, occasionally on left side. Lasting 3 to 6 days each with gaps of 3 days to 3 months between episodes. When is spasm the pain is worse than I have ever experienced. Breathing sends shooting pains that take my breath away. I cannot dress, get out of bed or wash unaided and cannot drive or do my job.

MRI shows disc bulges/lesions at c5/6 and c6/7, lost curvature due to degeneration and a lesion at T3/4. I have been told that none of this is the cause of my problem as the nerves are not being impeded in any way. He doesn't know what the problem is and cannot do anything more for me.

My doctor didn't even want me to go for the MRI and said it is a waste of money. He wants me to take painkillers and muscle relaxants and accept that it is just the way I am. He says that the source of back pain is rarely found and it is better to manage the pain than to try to find the cause.

I also have numbness/tingling in the 2 smaller fingers on my right hand and occasionally the outside of my right foot although the fingers may be down to a nerve issue in my elbow, I have yet to get it investigated.

This has gone on for about 7 years but I have had a burning pain between my shoulder blades since I was a teenager (I am 34). I can put up with the pain day to day but I cannot cope with the spasms. It is genuinely ruining my life.

Does anyone have any suggestions? I have had regular PT but everything they have tried has made it worse. The muscles are constantly rigid but the more they try to massage out the knots the more spasms I have so I am going in a circle!


  • First let me say welcome to spine-health. Have a look around and you will find others whom had a long road to discovering what was causing their pain. As far as where your pain is coming from, there is no one here that can really answer that question, as none of us are doctors, just patients sharing stories. With that said, if a doctor is not willing to investigate what is making you feel so bad, then just move on to another doctor. I might understand the opinion of lets try some medications and see if it helps or not, but that should be a short term goal not a matter of treatment. As to the MRI, more and more insurance companies are going to the problem has to exist for X amount of time, before they will order or other treatments need to be tried before a MRI is ordered.

    As far as what can help you, look up a dermatone chart and see if any of the pain patterns match what you are describing. Keep a very detailed journal of your pain, as to what you were doing that made it so bad, what makes it better and what makes it worse. Get acquainted with the spine and how it works and all the terminology. I am not saying that is where your pain is coming from, but it helps to know what the doctors are talking about. Last but not least if your talking to a doctor and you don't understand, tell them. It is their job to explain so you can understand what is happening.

    As far as treatments go, do try what they are offering, as it might help. While sometimes we don't want to, it is necessary to rule out conditions or rule in conditions. Sometimes treatments themself are a way of diagnosing.

    The one thing for sure is you have found the right place where we all understand pain, and what it does to our lives. We might not have answers as to what is causing your pain, however we can offer support, to help you get through this. As I said my best suggestion is if the doctor doesn't want to help you, there are plenty more out there. Finding the pain generator is the most important aspect, so they know what they are treating.

    Just thought I would stop by and welcome you to spine-health. If there is anything I can do don't hesitate to pm me.
  • Thanks for that. Not heard of a Dermatone chart before. Had a look and the pain I have is T1-5 + C8. I am in the UK so don't have private medical insurance like you guys do but I guess it all adds up to the same sort of thing in the long run. I know no one on here can give medical advice, I just wondered if anyone had a similar thing happening so I could ask what they had tried or been told by the doctors. No treatment is being offered to me except pain killers. As it stands right now the answer from the medical people is that they don't know what the problem is and there is nothing they can do about it so just put up with it. Unfortunately if it keeps happening and I keep turning up to work unable to move or drive I am going to lose my job. I am single and live alone so not having an income is not an option. This is the 5th doctor I have seen and the first one to even send me for a scan.
  • for what's causing your pain and just take these pills. It may be the protocol he has established that you have to complain for xx amount of time or he may be looking for more symptoms before going forward. I can say that I have some of the same symptoms you do except on the left side more than right. I do have numbness and tingling in thumb index and middle finger and sometimes ring finger. The NS said I need a 3 level fusion C4-C7 but it can wait, the longer we wait the better due to adjacent levels taking added stress.
    As far as your upper back and shoulder pain, I have been told I will have it the rest of my life and surgery is to stop deterioration and not halt the pain.
    There are many different types of DR that may be able to help including Physiatrist, pain management, I personnaly stay away from chiropractors after years of treatment that only provided temporary relief. Have you tried physical therapy? When my neck issues first came up I did PT 4 or 5 times over a period of years before having first surgery, lamenectomy, to clear a pinched nerve. The NS couldn't correlate symptoms with the MRI and so he ordered a myelogram and found the pinched nerve, I got some strength back in my left arm but now have more problems.
    Other things that might be worth trying are massage and accupuncture, neither will correct your problem but may give you some relief. Please let us know how you are doing.
    laminectomy c4/c5 2008, ACDF c4-c7 Jan 20 2014 sched
  • MetalneckMetalneck Island of Misfit toysPosts: 1,378
    edited 09/25/2012 - 10:49 PM
    I had this conversation with my orthopedic surgeon just last week regarding my back. After reviewing my most recent MRI's and taking a couple of plain ole x-ray's he said to me its very simple. When my PM doctor and I can no longer control the pain with medications... to call him up and we will schedule a PLIF. Just that simple ... and straight forward.

    This is in line with my experience with my cervical fusion surgeries X4 .... when the pain was no longer tollerable with the massive amounts of pain killers - every color and size in a rainbow ... I was begging for surgical intervention. So real simple ... when quality of life is something from your distant past and you have exhusted every med in the PDR and you are begging for surgery ..... thats when its the next step.

    Keep in mind that the surgery serves many purposes one being a potential reduction in pain, 2 being stabilization of the structure to reduce to potential of further damage to the boney structures, 3 being decompression of nerves in hopes that the pain/irritation will resolve and not continue towards permenant damage.4 to make the hospital and physician a lot of money!!
    5 Increased quality of life after the co-insurance is paid off!

    Thats my opinion and I'm sticking to it!!

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