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I would like some advice on dealing with pain from an old injury

I'm new here (just discovered this site). I need some serious advice on how to deal with some serious pain around the T-12 area of my spine.

5 years ago when I was in junior college I was involved in a serious automobile accident that fractured my T-12. It healed (according to the spine specialist at the time), but I was warned that I could have future issues with pain and stability. Up until last year I had no such problems, but last year and this year every time the barometric pressure shifts I become incapacitated by excruciating back pain similar to what I experienced in the weeks just following the car wreck. I'm 27, so I run into the problem that I can no longer be on my parents insurance, making it an impossibility to get medical help. I also recently graduated 4-year university, and like many other people my age am unable to find work that pays me enough to pay the bills, let alone give insurance coverage. In fact - the last low wage job I had involved lots of bending and lifting (which aggravated this old injury even more than the weather changes do), so I was forced to leave. I used to have a hard brace right after the accident, and I wished I still had it (although I doubt I'd fit it anymore, as I have gained weight since then). I feel the brace would help me at least get through day to day life, but as I don't have it anymore, I'm stressing to find a solution to allow me to get back to living a normal life. I live in a rural area in the Midwest, and the jobs available to me locally are not "bad back friendly", and I'm too far away from a population center to find "bad back friendly" work. As I'm unemployed, uninsured, and living with virtually no savings, I can't go spend hundreds of dollars on a new hard brace, or thousands on medical treatment. I just want to get back to being productive, but I don't know how! Does anybody have any ideas that might help me?


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

    Spinal stenosis since 1995
    Lumber decompression surgery S1 L5-L3[1996]
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  • I am from Australia so I don't understand your medical system. I have had a trauma thoracic injury so know the pain. Heat helps me. You need to see if your hips are aligned properly or if one shoulder is higher than the other. If it is you need to have your shoes built up on one side so your hips are even. You can't do any heavy bending or lifting - you just can't or you will be in really bad excruciating pain and the Drs have a hard time fixing thoracic injuries although you are lucky you injured your T12 and not one further up.

    If you can't afford a brace, sometimes you can get an elastic bandage or weight lifting belt that might work, and wrap it round your T12 to stabilise it. If you have a Uni degree you might have to work out some other type of work where you are using your degree but working from home.

    The more bending and twisting you do before a proper diagnosis - is really dangerous. Your spine is your central nervous system- Your spinal cord is narrowest in your thoracic vertebrae. Anything happening could paralyise you - or you could end up in excruciating pain for the rest of your life - most Drs won't touch thoracic as the risks are too great - My chances with surgery were an 80% risk of paralysis - I'm not trying to scare you but that is the reality.

    You need to get this checked out somehow by a specialist who knows about thoracic spine and there are not many of them as you have to have incredible force to damage your thoracic vertebrae.

    If you do not get help now and a proper diagnosis you may do irreparable damage and the pain is so excruciating I was willing to sell my house and live in a tent if the pain would just stop. You need to research thoracic spine also, it does take incredible force so it is a rare injury - I never suspected how rare it is - the research shows that people who have traumatic thoracic injuries - because it takes such force - usually die from other injuries. So it is very serious and you just can't damage it more.

    I don't know how you are going to do this and if any Drs work for free - or you can go to a teaching University - because everyone in Australia can get treatment for free. Please work out a way to get examined or you will honestly wreck the rest of your life. Thoracic pain can be excruciating - I know I was misdiagnosed for 8 years in incredible pain before they finally realised what had happened.

    So if you want any kind of life look for a way of getting a diagnosis. I believe in weight bearing MRI's. The sooner you know what has happened the less damage you will do. I cannot emphasise enough if you don't want to be in excruciating pain or paralysed at worst you need to see someone. I have given you a link to a manual on intractable pain that you might like to read. There are no easy answers with this - it is rare - most Drs will not touch it. Please do some research. I'm not a Dr but it sounds like your fracture could have broken again and if one part breaks off and severs your spinal cord you are totally screwed.

    You do need to go to someone and see about your T12. If you can afford a physiotherapist have them look at the ones above and below your injured vertebrae. Make sure they are in alignment as they seem to take over from the damaged one. You really need an MRI as you could have easily fractured your T12 again by bending and lifting.

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