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Seeking feedback on my pain symptoms

I'm a 51-year old who has had lower back pain for the last 20 years. It's a manageable pain most of the time but I generally don't sit up straight for long periods of time due to discomfort. I often put a pillow or something behind my back when I drive which helps.

My mother has had three lower back surgeries in her lifetime just to share some family history.

About five years ago, the pain got much more severe resulting in spasms and numbness in my upper left leg. An MRI revealed disc compression which resulted in a lot of inflammation in the area. I was given a steroid shot and started PT to strengthen my core. In time, it got much better.

This spring, I started having severe shoulder pain which would result in spasms. This pain would also spread across my shoulder blade and down to my elbow. A shoulder MRI revealed a small tear but nothing which should cause elbow pain. My doc thought it might be my neck but tests didn't reveal anything. I started taking anti-inflammatorys and had PT on the shoulder which helped.

In time, the shoulder pain lessened to just a dull ache but the elbow pain remains. I notice it gets much worse when I am sitting up straight for long periods of time. Driving, for example, requires I use my right hand to steer as using the left brings on the elbow pain.

I'm wondering if my previous lower back issues could be causing the elbow pain. The lower back really doesn't bother me unless I am sitting up straight but that's also when the elbow pain returns.

Sorry for such a long post for my first. Thanks for any advice.


  • 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
  • would not cause pain in the arms, shoulder or elbow. Those pains would come from the neck , if it were spine related.
    Do you lean on your elbows alot? If you do the elbow pain might stem from the ulnar nerve. Leaning on your forearms can cause that nerve to be compressed, and result in pain and numbness.
  • Did they do an MRI? It is possible to not see where a nerve is being pinched even with an MRI. I had similar symptoms to yours and when I started loosing strength in my left arm the surgeon did a myelogram and found the culprit. I had a laminectomy but unfortunately I have permanent nerve damage. My left arm is much weaker than my right, I am left handed, and have no reflexes in my left elbow/bicep.
    Do you experience any numbness or tingling in your hands or fingers? that would be additional symptoms of a possible pinched nerve.
    laminectomy c4/c5 2008, ACDF c4-c7 Jan 20 2014 sched
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