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At what point should i seek *emergency* medical attention (i dont have insurance)

RichardShiversRRichardShivers Posts: 1
edited 07/06/2013 - 2:33 AM in Upper Back Pain, Thoracic
Hello spine-health community,

I am a 28 year old male and have been experiencing upper back pain for going on 4 years now. When i first developed the back pain i thought it was strain from work, i used to work contracting and did the majority of the grunt work. Anyways, the pain was intermittent with pain flare-ups usually lasting about a week and would go 1-3 weeks with very mild pain between.

Over the last 18 months i have noticed the pain getting worse with the flare-ups lasting longer and the pain between flare-ups was getting much worse. I had also changed jobs because the manual labor was just too much for me.

Over the last 9 months or so i have been unable to work, dropped out of school because i can not sit in class for very long nor able to tolerate the pain of everyday studying. I have never been overweight (well, maybe 5 lbs or so), was 5'11 170 lbs at my heaviest.

A few months ago i broke down and went to the ER for the second time regarding the back pain issues ( i went to the ER when i first developed the pain 4 years ago and the dr said the x-rays looked fine but i should have an MRI done) and had x-rays done. I didnt get a diagnoses but the dr pointed out at least 6 of my discs showing rapid thinning on the right side, 2 of which are so thin that my vertabraes are almost touching when i stand as straight as i can. My spine curves to the right about 2 inches. The dr also listened to my lungs and noticed my right lung is getting obstructed when i inhale.

So, this brings me to my first question, is the curve in my spine caused by the thinning of the discs or is the thinning of the discs causing my spine to curve? I should note my spine shows no signs of twisting and the x-rays i have found online for scoliosis seem to twist and show little to no thinning. I know that i need an MRI but there is absolutely no way i can afford one.

For the last month I have been having trouble eating/drinking (mostly eating though) because the pressure puts me in severe pain ( i have to eat portions 1/4 the size i used to). I have also lost almost 25 pounds, went from 165 lbs to 142 lbs and measure 5' 9" now (i didnt lose 2" in a month, i was 5' 11" when i was 16 so its been a slow process). Inhaling has also become painful.

Anyways, at what point (if there is one) does this become an emergency (other then the obvious ones of unable to eat/breath) and what symptoms should i be looking for? I do not want to pay the hospital $1500 for a dr to tell me its screwed up and give me 12 hydro-codones, which, btw, do absolutely nothing for the pain.

I am to the point that i am bed bound for 20+ hours a day (i get up and move around frequently, stretch what i can, and go for short walks) because the pain has become so unbearable. I cant even sit down and play with my 4 year old nephew, which really bums me out. The pain has also brought out some pretty bad mental health issues. I do not want to live with pain like this, i can not live like this. My life has become nothing and i dont know what to do. Before all this i was a very happy persons with no mental health issues. Now, the thought of suicide crosses my mind several times a day (do not worry, i am not going to. i could never do that to my family and nephews).


  • LizLiz Posts: 7,832
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    Liz, Spine-health Moderator

    Spinal stenosis since 1995
    Lumber decompression surgery S1 L5-L3[1996]
    Cervical stenosis, so far avoided surgery
  • thoracic spine painthoracic spine pain Posts: 566
    edited 07/06/2013 - 11:51 AM
    Have a look at the site and it tells you when you need medical attention. If it effects your breathing or eating it is an emergency.

    Isn't there anyone who provides free medical in the States? It is your central nervous system thats why the pain is unbearable. There must be phone numbers you can call for free medical assistance - don't know?? there is a safety net in Australia where you can get free medical. Someone else on this site should be able to tell you how to go about it.

    You need to get some pain medication and muscle relaxants to help with your pain. If you go to the hospital tell them it effects your breathing really badly then they normally have to do something. Not being able to breathe properly is dangerous. Can your family take you to ER? They need to know how bad it is. You need to ask for help. It's morning in Australia so someone should wake up in the US soon who will be able to help you.

    Heat packs should help ease your pain a bit in the mean time. Also try a pillow between you knees as it takes the pressure off your spine.

    Please PM one of the moderators on this site probably Dilauro or Sandi as they have had similar conditions. They should be able to give you some advice about getting some help in the States.
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