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Neck and shoulder blade pain, any ideas?

eadubyeeaduby Posts: 100
edited 12/25/2012 - 6:45 PM in Neck Pain: Cervical
I'm looking to hear from some others who might have the same symptoms as me and might have an idea of what's going on since my doctors aren't really sure.

I'm 24 years old, and my pain started as an ache in my right shoulder blade approx five years ago with a stinging/stabbing pain when it was at its worst. It would occasionally flare up and was slowly progressing over time until I was taking a regular daily regimen of ibuprofen to keep it at bay.

Then one morning in June I woke up to have the pain in my neck and much worse. Ibuprofen wasn't touching the pain. Within the next couple months it has developed into a constant aching, burning, stabbing, stinging pain in my neck, top of shoulder, shoulder blade, and the side of my ribcage. It radiates down into my upper arm and elbow often, and my forearm, hand, and fingers (especially my ring and pinky finger) will either hurt or go numb and tingly.

MRIs of the neck and brain were normal. Thoracic MRI showed prominent central canal but was otherwise normal. Nerve conduction study was normal. Chest, shoulder, and neck xrays were normal. Chest and head CTs were normal.

My pain management doctors have diagnosed it at myofascial pain syndrome and I don't think it's right. The physical therapist I just saw doesn't agree either, and I'm inclined to go with the pt's opinion more because they are actually working with me and watching my symptoms being produced. Thing is what could it possibly be and how can I get a doctor to listen to me? The last two times I went to pain management and told them I'm in pain everyday the PAs I saw both said that since all my medications and treatments are correct for MPS they aren't going to do anything different. One actually told me I should be glad that I don't have some horrible herniation in my neck or something (how I should be glad that my pain isn't being managed properly I don't know....) I know I probably need to seek out other doctors/opinions so I'm hoping that maybe I can find someone else, but the idea is a bit daunting.

I forgot to add a couple of other symptoms I've been having. Double vision and blurriness in my right eye and cluster headaches on the right side. A full story is here http://www.spine-health.com/forum/newbies-welcome/new-member-introductions/mps-lumbar-herniation-im-new-here
Microlaminectomy and discectomy at C7-T1 on April 26th.


  • I am really sorry to hear that you are having difficulties finding the right diagnosis for your symptoms. I had the exact symptoms you are describing before my ACDF at C5/6 almost 2 years ago. Today I live with some of the same symptoms I had prior to the surgery. My MRI findings showed bone spurs compressing on spinal cord as well as severe biforaminal stenosis. Around 5 months after my surgery, I had herniated my disc in my lower back causing my right leg to be significantly shorter than the left. I went to PT and time passed. The pain got better, but my right leg is still shorter and the mobility is not the same as the left. I have noticed the leg length discrepancy since I was a teenager and never thought much of it. I wonder if my current symptoms have to do with my lower back problems since I was told both my legs are not anatomically different in length. Out of curiosity, have you ever noticed if one leg is shorter than the other? Over time, this could cause muscles to compensate. In my case, my left side of the upper body hurts and my right side of my lower body hurts. My physical therapist believes this is because of the muscles compensating. I have seen numerous specialists and still do not have an answer for my pain.

    The only thing that seems to help is exercise. I know that for a long time I was exercising and the pain would be manageable. I was under a lot of stress and stopped going to the gym for around a year and that was when my pain reached an all time high and stayed that way until the surgery. I can't explain why going to the gym works, but it does for me. Be it the serotonin, strengthening the muscles, unloading the stress, etc., I depend on the workouts to get me to a better place.

    I will recommend that you keep searching for the reason behind your symptoms. Getting the right diagnosis is important in pain management. I was not so lucky in finding a solution for my pain. If your pain is from MPS, have you tried trigger point injections, trigger point massage therapy or acupuncture? My acupuncturist said that people with chronic pain can not expect the pain to disappear quickly. Good luck with your search and feel free to PM me if you would like.
    2011 ACDF C5-6 for Spondylosis with Myleopathy
    2012 L4-5 herniated disc and hernated disc at C4/5 2013 Taking Amitriptyline for headaches
  • Thanks for the response Lili. All my pain is on the right side of my body so I don't think compensation is a problem. It is quite odd in fact the left side of my body feels 'normal' from top to bottom, while the right side experiences many pains and symptoms. I do have a herniation at L4-5 that affects my right side of my lower back and causes sciatic pain down my leg to my ankle.

    In February I started going to the gym and I was loving it, it really was helping to reduce my lower back pain. Unfortunately it was exacerbating my neck/shoulder/arm pain and when the pain really flared in June I had to stop working out. PT exercises all make it worse too. It is frustrating that the pain in my neck is halting the progress I could be making to stop the pain in my lower back. I am pretty sure that if the neck pain wasn't holding me back I'd be able to solve the lower back pain with more conservative measures, but currently I'm having nerve blocks to try and calm it since I can't do much of anything else.

    All of the doctors were CONVINCED that my scans would show a herniation in my neck based on my symptoms and everyone was baffled when they came up clear. Since then I've had two sets of trigger point injections done. The first set helped with the pain for about three-five days, but the numbness and tingling was exacerbated during that time. The second set didn't help at all. I have a third set scheduled for mid-January that I'm hoping will at least give me a short relief like the first one did.
    Microlaminectomy and discectomy at C7-T1 on April 26th.
  • davrunnerddavrunner Posts: 478
    edited 12/28/2012 - 9:28 AM
    In 2007 my cervical mri showed bulging discs but no contact on spine and didn't show any nerve impingment. My left arm, hand and shoulder hurt and I had numbness and tingling issues. finally as my left arm got weaker the NS decided to do a myleogram and found the part of the problem. I had a laminectomy performed and got some of my strength back but still have pain and some permanent nerve damage.
    Has you Dr discussed other diagnostics tests that they might try? In addition to myleograms there are EMG studies (though I think they are only as good as the Dr performing) and probably others I can't think of right now.
    laminectomy c4/c5 2008, ACDF c4-c7 Jan 20 2014 sched
  • davrunner said:
    In 2007 my cervical mri showed bulging discs but no contact on spine and didn't show any nerve impingment. My left arm, hand and shoulder hurt and I had numbness and tingling issues. finally as my left arm got weaker the NS decided to do a myleogram and found the part of the problem. I had a laminectomy performed and got some of my strength back but still have pain and some permanent nerve damage.
    Has you Dr discussed other diagnostics tests that they might try? In addition to myleograms there are EMG studies (though I think they are only as good as the Dr performing) and probably others I can't think of right now.
    What is an EMG?

    I have been having some issues with the various doctors I've been seeing. All except for my primary care seem to take the MRI as god's word or something, and I get a suspicious feeling that they haven't even looked at the films and only at the reports. When I cry and argue and plead for them to do something because I'm in so much pain I get berated for being dramatic and told I need to 'calm down' and they act shocked like 'you should be glad there's nothing wrong!' I know I need to find some new doctors but I have state funded insurance and the options are few making it a stressful process to find someone else, when I tried to find a second opinion from an orthopedic my primary was unable to get anyone to refer me to.
    Microlaminectomy and discectomy at C7-T1 on April 26th.
  • It is a test used to determine if there is any nerve damage. The ones I have had done are two parts one where the send electric pulse and measure the time it takes to go from point of origin to your spine and back. they usually do it a several different places on your hand/wrist and fingers. The second part is done by putting a needle that is connected to a machine and they find your nerve and listen to the sounds it makes. This is described from someone who has undergone the test but doesn't fully understand how they get from there to determine if you have nerve issues.
    mine showed issues with carpal tunnel and ulner nerve entrapment.
    State funded insurance may limit your ability to get second opinions and sometimes additional tests if the initial ones don't show anything.
    Hope the injections you have scheduled for January help you find some relief.
    laminectomy c4/c5 2008, ACDF c4-c7 Jan 20 2014 sched
  • OK, yes I had an EMG, they called it a nerve conduction study but it also had a part where they stuck the needles in. It didn't find anything. A doctor I recently saw at the ER though said that getting a normal result on them doesn't mean that there are not any problems, especially if you're not experiencing symptoms when they do the EMG.
    Microlaminectomy and discectomy at C7-T1 on April 26th.
  • Hi Im sorry you are suffering and hope my story can help you. I fell down the stairs about 5yo. No major injury at time, but muscle tension in both shoulders and neck. After months this became worse and unresponsive to stretching.All my tests were normal, no disc problems, etc. Then one night I fell asleep with my head cocked to the side. Ever since then I started getting numbness down the left arm, Long story short: After going to 5 P.T. groups, multiple trigger point injections, all types of drugs, 4 chiropractors and 2 surgeons, I was finally diagnosed correctly. First of all my 1st Rib was out of position and jammed up near the clavicle, mind you 4 other pt's missed this! More importantly I was dx.with Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. For the last 8 months I have been getting what is called ART or Active Release Technique by a chiropractor who is familiar with Myofascial Pain syndromes. I basically had accumulated tons of trigger points in my entire shoulder girdle. I was going once a week, but within a few days things would tighten up. Since increasing to 2x a week I am finally feeling like there is a light at the end of the tunnel. It has been expensive, but we play the insurance game and keep asking for more approval visits. This is the only thing that has helped me. Btw it is very painful treatment when done correctly, but the muscles have to be "stripped of all of these trigger points'. The longer you have them the harder it will be to break the cyle. I hope this helps and God Bless You,Donna
  • truffleloverttrufflelover Posts: 13
    edited 01/06/2013 - 2:17 PM
    One of the ways to be dx. accurately for TOS is to have an emg, but these are not always accurate. Mine didn't show much nerve impingement, but my sx. were terrible. Also, if the doc has you hold your arm above your head and has you turn your head away, the pulse in your wrist will be decreased due to the nerve impingement. SInce finding the right doctor all my numbness and excruciating arm pain are gone and most days I am at a pain of 3 or 4, not a 10 like before. Good Luck!!
  • eadubyeeaduby Posts: 100
    edited 01/09/2013 - 6:16 AM
    I definitely don't have TOS, no diminished pulse and also it's looking like there's foraminal stenosis compressing the c7 nerve root.
    Microlaminectomy and discectomy at C7-T1 on April 26th.
  • It's good that you are getting close to understanding the source of the pain generator.

    Take care.
  • Eaduby, have you tried anything for acid reflux? I had your exact symptoms and it turned out to be the problem.
  • BlessedMom74BBlessedMom74 Posts: 322
    edited 02/19/2015 - 6:47 AM
    Eaduby, we are having similar symptoms. I have sharp stabbing pain in my neck and I have burning pain on my right scapula and I also get a weird sensation that I can only describe as someone snapping rubber bands on my scapula. I get numbness and pins and needles in my right ring and pinky finger too. My right arm feels like I have spiders crawling on my skin. All that showed up on my MRI was disc herniations at C4/5 and C5/6 with supposedly no spinal cord compression, but I beg to differ. I've been dealing with this for almost 18 months, working with a physical therapist for over a year, going 2-3 times a week. It's horrible, and unsettling. If I were you, I would go see another doctor or maybe an Orthopiedic or neurologist. I was given Percocet for the pain which helps a little. Muscle relaxers don't do a thing other than make you drowsy. Don't bother with those. I tried acupuncture for 6 months and that only gave me a day or two of relief. Got too expensive to keep up for such little relief. My physical therapist thinks my discs are being compressed and irritating the associated nerves even though the MRI didn't show"compression". There could still be disc and nerve irritation which would inflame the nerves. Hope this helps. Hang in there and continue to be your biggest advocate, many doctors are very quick to dismiss, young healthy looking patiens. I am a young 40 year old, physically ft woman and I dont "look" like I am in constant pain. I don't ft the profile, sounds like you don't either. Don't give up until you find the help you need.
  • Thank you for your post. It's very similar to me it seems.

    Six months ago I started having pain and numbness in my left hand/wrist/forearm/above the elbow/shoulder/back of shoulder blade/and recently around my left side rib cage numbness only no pain around the rib cage.

    It is severe aching pain. And tingling pins and needles. My doctor tried amnitriptaline (sp), tramadol, gabapenton, artithrotec, codeine and recently talwin. None of these things relieve the pain. And since it's spread to my side/rib I'm really scared and my Dr has sent numerous referrals to a neurologist but it's over a year wait.

    Its so frustrating and frightening when it feels like after all this time no doctor is concerned about my symptoms and that I cannot manage the pain Amy longer and it's spreading.
  • SavageSavage United StatesPosts: 5,427
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  • Max_LeeMax_Lee New York, United StatesPosts: 88
    I had severe, stabbing pain between my spine and right scapula, and I thought I'd pulled a muscle in my shoulder, and none of the Army doctors thought to look for a spine problem (I'm 20) until two months later, after I began to have numbness in my right hand. MRI showed C4/C5 and C5/C6 were bulging, and they tried Mobic and Robaxin (neither of which worked, I had a pain crisis so bad I could not walk for a week) and sent me to a psychologist, saying I was 'imagining' my pain and numbness. Got kicked out of the Army because of it, and when I saw a civilian doctor, he was surprised the Army had blown me off and told me I was imagining my pain and hand numbness. He sent me to a pain management specialist, who put me on Gabapentin (just makes me feel odd and sleep too much) and wants to try cervical epidural steroid injections.
    You are not alone. I know the frustration and fear from feeling like no one is listening to you and do not seem concerned, I understand and sympathize. It happened to me too, and it left me with what I hope is not a lasting mistrust of people. Don't give up. There is someone out there who will listen to you.
    Kieran Lee
     "The loneliest people are the kindest. The saddest people smile the
    brightest. The most damaged people are the wisest. All because they do
    not wish to see anyone else suffer the way they do.''-Anonymous

  • Pseudotumor cerebri my wife has this condition she had the same problems as you did also she had many many many tests on her and they couldn't find anything wrong with her.  What happened was she went to the Dr for another test and she pasted out when she woke up her eyes were crossed and she couldn't see they ran more tests on her in the hospital and nothing finally they did a spinal tap to run tests on her spinal fluid and when they put the needle in spinal fluid came gushing out of her Into the needle and that's when they realized what she had.  What this condition does is your spinal cord produces too much fluid to where fluid has no where to go but to the brain and then it causes your nervous system to stop working there for the numbness and the severe headaches and blurryness it's all caused by too much pressure on your brain her codintion was so severe that if they didn't do the spinal tap when they did the fluid would have crushed her brain and she would of died with 24hrs from when they did the spinal tap.  So it was just a stroke of luck that they found this she has had one other spinal tap done due to this and she has not had another one done to her in almost 10 years I would speak to your Dr about this and have them recommend you to a neurologist I hope all well works out for you 
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