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New member with more questions than answers

Hello all. My name is Seth. I'm a 28 year old male and going on nearly a year of moderate to severe, chronic back pain. I created an account here at spine-health a couple of weeks ago, but I've just mustered up confidence to put myself out there in the hopes of finding an answer.

My pain story starts 11 to 12 months ago. I began noticing a pleural rub about once a week for 20-30 minutes at a time. As the weeks passed, the rubbing continued to increase in amount (both frequency and duration). Finally, I had enough of the rubbing that was more annoying than painful. A few months later I was diagnosed with Pleurisy. After months of treatment with NSAIDS, steroids, bronchodilators, etc., I finally had it under control. That's when the real pain began...

Almost immediately after the pleuritic symptoms subsided, I began experiencing pain in my thoracic spine area. This pain has been with me since. The pain has many personalities, which has caused a problem for me in explaining what I'm feeling. At times it feels as if there is a knife stuck right in my thoracic spine. Other times, if feels like a softball is stuck at the same location, often causing pain to radiate up the the base of the skull (and for some reason, inducing anxiety). Sometimes it feels as though it is an open wound and bleeding, and often is itchy. I tend to have this cycle of pain, pleural rub (thoracic pain subsided) for a day, a couple of hours being pain free, then moderate to severe thoracic back pain for about a month and a half. The pain only goes away when the pleuritic symptoms pop up. All this on top of tingly feet and hands.

No diagnosis as of yet, but not for a lack of trying: chest and spine rads, MRIs (brain, cervical and thoracic spine), NCS/EMG, CT scan, and an unholy amount of lab work. I've had so many diagnostics that the Mayo Clinic denied my physician's referral, saying they couldn't do anything more than what has already been done. I've tried it all: Neurology, Pain Management, Physical Therapy, Physical medicine, Sports medicine, Chiropractors, Acupuncture, Osteopathic Manipulation, and of course, a slew of medications. Nothing to indicate what is causing this pain, and no relief.

I'm reaching the end of my rope with this pain, and I'm afraid my physician is at a stand still. Any input would be considered and appreciated. I found it very cathartic to write that out, so I apologize for the length and wordiness. I want to be a contributing member to the spine-health forums, so please feel free to correct any of my forum faux-pas.



  • LizLiz Posts: 7,832
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    Ron DiLauro


    Liz, Spine-health Moderator

    Spinal stenosis since 1995
    Lumber decompression surgery S1 L5-L3[1996]
    Cervical stenosis, so far avoided surgery
  • I have thoracic pain caused by an accident that never went away unless I was asleep. Have you had a weight bearing MRI,?It may show up problems that can be missed on a prone MRI, here is the link showing the difference. Look at the pictures.


    Also a link to the Intractable Paiin Survivors guide which I wish i had read at the start of my journey.


    There are not many specialists who know about thoracic spine as it is incredibly hard to damage the vertabrea especially if you are young and have healthy bones, - vertebrae fracture is usually through a fall or accident. But a prone MRI should have picked up any fractures.Some people with thoracic problems have no pain. Read through the posts on the thoracic forum as well. I sleep with a pillow between my knees as this takes some pressure off my thoracic spine.

    Look at the MD rating site and see if there are any specialists in your area who specialise in thoracic. Take someone with you to verify your pain. Hopefully it is muscular and can be fixed. I experienced the same type of pain as you and was not diagnosed properly on what was actually causing the pain until about six months ago. I had an incredibly healthy spine before my accident.

    So please try and get a good specialist now and try and find a standing or sitting MRI - there are many in the US as it might pick up something they have missed especially if lying down is the most comfortable position for you .Standing/sitting MRI's are weight bearing. I believe they missed the one actually causing all the pain as I had a prone MRI - or rather many prone MRI's, and they only picked up the obvious injury but did not pick up my T4 was not in the correct mechanical place and my T5 had healed in a really bad mechanical place as well. I think because I was lying down they did not see my T4 and that was the one causing the pain. It must have gone into place when I was prone. It maybe something pressing on your spine as thoracic spine is where all your vital organs are.

    They also did not realise my crush was on the right. I stupidly tried to save myself by stepping off my bike and put incredible force through the right side of my body. Braces can work as well. Now they hard cast thoracic if you have had an accident. I was just very unlucky and mine healed in a bad position.

    It could also be your discs or a myriad of other reasons.

    Good luck - hope some of this helps - thoracic pain sucks so much.
  • I have had that and it is no fun. The stabbing pains between the ribs, and trying not to cough. ugh! Have you seen a pulminologist since it all started with pleural rubs. Did you have and infection at the time? I had pneumonia which led to my inflammation. It took a long time to feel better. I don't know if the inflammation could have spread to the dura of your spinal column and inflamed that, It wouldn't show up on xrays, not sure about the MRI.
  • Necksoup- After first being diagnosed with Pleurisy, I was given some doxycycline as "couldn't hurt" solution. It didn't hurt, but it didn't help either. I haven't seen a pulmonologist either, as my physician isn't concerned with this because it isn't my primary complaint. I will bring it up though!

    Thoracic Spine Pain- Thank you so much for the information! I don't think I fit the qualifications for an IP dx, but I'm happy that you've given me that information! Unfortunately, I've had to learn some of it the hard way. I will also suggest a weight bearing MRI to my physician. Luckily, I feel like I have a trusting relationship with her, and we correspond a couple times a week.
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