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Cervical Stenosis and Undiagnosed Thoracic Pain

DerekMX271DDerekMX271 Posts: 2
edited 08/07/2013 - 11:47 AM in Spinal Stenosis
I'm 23 years old and have recently been diagnosed with spinal stenosis from C2-C7. I have been diagnosed with herniations at T5-T8 (2010). My symptoms (since 2008) has been mainly pain in my thoracic spine. The pain seems to radiate from the inside of my spine, with the tearing sensation being between the vertebra on the right side, burning pain in the soft tissue surrounding area, tenderness in the muscles around the area, and pins and needles sensation in the entire region. I also have stiffness and moderate pain in my neck (that I thought was caused by thoracic issues). The pain is constant, but the peak issues arise 4-5 times a day and it feels like my vertebrae are "out of alignment." The only relief comes from popping them back into place by straightening out my thoracic spine. I also have to crack my neck left and right to alleviate the upper thoracic pain when it's at its worst.

The thoracic pain was initially blamed on herniations discovered in 2010, and slight scoliosis L-R in the thoracic region. I did not have surgery to repair the herniations in hopes they would heal themselves. The herniations have since healed according to recent MRIs, but the pain still remains.

My treatment has been medications (high doses of Oxycontin and Percocet), injections to the thoracic area, physical therapy, and chiropractic adjustments. None of the above have proven an effective solution to my pain. I had to go through treatment to get off of the pain meds, and that to me is not at all a tangible solution. It led to heroin use and had a devastating affect on my life. I want the cause addressed, not to mask the pain.

A few months ago, I started having numbness down my right arm, and weakness. These new symptoms prompted another visit to the doctor. I explained the new neurological symptoms, and explained my thoracic pain was increasing. With new symptoms and no abnormalities evident in the t-spine, I convinced my doctor to have an MRI of my neck done. The MRI showed Spinal Stenosis from C2-C7. At this time, I thought my search was over, and I could have surgery that would hopefully lead to less pain.

I was referred to the OHSU Spine Center. I was examined and poked. The surgeon explained that I was not a candidate for surgery because: "You have Cervical Stenosis- not Cervical Stenosis..." and "You don't have pain down your arm, just numbness and weakness intermittently." The surgeon also claimed that it was impossible for my thoracic pain to be caused by anything in my neck.

I was devastated. I now have undiagnosed, unbearable pain in my thoracic spine, and an MRI that clearly shows severe stenosis in my neck. I have now been dumped to a pain management clinic to cover my pain instead of address the cause of it. None of the doctors I have seen recently can point me in any direction to get help. I don't know who to turn to, or what to do.

Can the thoracic pain be caused by what's going on in my neck? Is there any type of doctor that can help me with my stenosis (get rid of numbness, pain)? Can anyone give me advice? I have no one with similar experiences to turn to for help or advice, and am very close to giving up completely. Living life has become very hard and the last thing I want is to go back on pain medication.

My most recent MRI conclusions:


Cervical Spine- In the sagittal alignment of the cervical vertebral bodies is anatomic. The vertebral body heights are preserved. The marrow containing spaces are normal in signal intensity. The structures of the craniocervical junction are normally aligned. The visualized portions of the posterior fossa are normal in signal intensity. The cervical spinal cord is normal in signal intensity. The intervertebral discs are normal in height.

C 2-3 - There is a right paracentral/foraminal disc osteophyte complex which contributes to mild right foraminal stenosis. The central canal and left foramen remain patent.

C 3-4 - There is a right foraminal disc osteophyte complex contributing to severe right foraminal stenosis. The central canal and left foramin remain patent.

C 4-5 - Uncovertebral and facet degenerative changes contribute to mild bilateral foraminal stenosis.

C 5-6 - The right foraminal disc osteophyte complex contributes to moderate right foraminal stenosis. The central canal and left foramen remain patent.

C 6-7 - Asymmetric left uncovertebral degenerative changes contribute to mild left foraminal stenosis. The central canal and right foramen remain patent.

C7-T1 - No significant canal or foraminal stenosis.

Thoracic spine - The sagittal alignment of the thoracic vertebral bodies is anatomic. The vertebral body heights are preserved. The marrow containing spaces are normal in signal intensity. The thoracic spinal cord is normal in signal intensity. The tip of the conus medullaris lies at the superior L1 level. Intervertebral discs are normal in signal intensity and height.

No significant desc bulge or protrusion, canal or foraminal stenosis is appreciated at any level within the thoracic spine.


  • thoracic spine painthoracic spine pain Posts: 566
    edited 08/07/2013 - 1:14 PM
    Have a look at a dermatone chart (search this site) and you can tell where your pain is radiating.

    I have had severe thoracic pain for around 8 years now and no-one has really diagnosed the cause of the pain. I am on opiates and muscle relaxants, as the pain is so severe, which I hate taking, and still don't give me much qualify of life. If you have a sitting or standing MRI in the States I would ask for one because when you are lying down your back can look normal. My pain started after a high impact motorcycle accident and never went away. I 80% wedge crushed my T5 vertabrae. Everything else healed fine.

    The only person who has really helped is a physio who noticed my mechanical structure was not right, my shoulder blade is in the wrong place, my shoulder is in the wrong place etc. The vertebrae above the damaged one is way out of place I am now taped into the correct place.

    What this has to do with you is she found the vertebrea above compensate for the damaged ones below which is your body's natural healing process. She felt the ones above the pain centre and put them back into the correct position. Then she taped them back as they had been out for so long.

    I learnt on this site to sleep with a pillow between my knees which takes the pressure off your spine while you sleep. I forgot last night and woke up in agony.

    I am lying here this morning looking at the beautiful day outside waiting for the pain killers to kick in, Any twisting, or pulling makes it worse. Have you kept a pain diary to see what makes it worse?

    I am seriously thinking of going to live in a third world country where I can afford servants. It would be OK if I wasn't a workacholic.

    Our spine is our central nervous system. If you broke your arm and kept twisting it it wouldn't get better and that's what we do to our spines. I have tried a soft brace to stop me from twisting - it just makes me remember not to do it.

    Have a look at the dermatone chart on this site and you will see where the pain radiates if it is your thoracic spine. Also read the Intractable Pain manual on this site. It is well worth a read. Just type it into the search engine.

    Back pain can be very isolating to say the least. I am serious about looking into a place where spineys can go and have some quality of life, as well as other people who understand that the pain is constant and delibitating. I have tried pain clinics and the one I went to was very expensive and a waste of time as they gave the same exercises to everyone. I now have a new specialist who agrees the pain clinic I went to is a money making exercise which was fairly obvious.

    Ron one of the moderators on this site has a similar condition to you. It might be worth PM ing him or reading some of his posts. He post under Dilauro. I have vertabrae damage not discs and that is different. The only advice I can offer is get them to align your spine by the ones above the pain site. Use a pillow to sleep. If every bump in the road hurts get a car with firmer seats that you can strap yourself tightly into. Firstly do a pain diary it only needs to be activity then pain level every thirty minutes. Then as much as you can try to avoid those activities.

    There are no standing or sitting MRI's in Australia but if you have access to one it should show the true picture. There is a You tube video on the difference.

    Have a less pain day.

  • @thoracic spine pain - Thanks for the response. I will definitely look into the moderators posts and message him to find out his experience. I actually was curious if a standing MRI existed- because the pain goes down considerably when I lie down and straighten my spine. I spend most of my day straightening until the one specific area pops back into place. Oddly enough, it seems like most of the thoracic stuff is a result of being misaligned... Perhaps that is something worth pursuing! I am just amazed that these doctors don't attempt to look into me any further. It always seems so black and white with the people suffering with spine issues- and so not worth the time for the doctors. I'm hoping to find someone with a little compassion that won't see 23 year old with... and dismiss me immediately again. I wasn't even seen by the surgeon my appointment with, they sent in an assistant to tend to me.

    I spoke with my mom who had a fusion in her neck about her issues leading to surgery, and it sounds like I may have also done some damage to my rotator cuff. I also was brought into this mess via a motorcycle accident. Over about a decade of racing, breaking/fracturing nearly every limb at some point, nothing really bothered me for any amount of time other than this back stuff. Been seven years or so now that this has been an issue. The endless loop of primary care, MRI, PT, injections, neuro, pain management, and no relief has worn me thin, but I will keep trying.

    I hope that those pain meds don't have the affect on you that they did on me. My pain was so much worse when taking them. It's a slippery slope that no one deserves to suffer through. God bless!
  • LizLiz Posts: 7,832
    edited 08/09/2013 - 8:45 PM
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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
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