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Severe chest/ribcage/mid back pain

I am a 56 year old female, 5'10" tall, previously fit and active. I live in Canada.

I have been dealing with severe chest/ribs/back pain now since May 12. When it started, (while jogging) I was in the hospital for 3 days, and they ruled out heart-related illness, other than some minor blockage in one of my arteries. The pain continued, so I went back to ER twice. They gave me pain pills and sent me home. Many tests later, the pain has continued. Most recently, my family doctor referred me to a specialist, who ordered a CT scan, which revealed "moderate to severe right facet degeneration at the T4-T5 level with associated moderate narrowing at the right T4-T5 neural foramen". In layman's terms, (as I understand it) the bone is pressing on the nerve, causing referred pain into my ribs and chest. I am being referred to a surgeon - he says that is the only treatment option. I always thought back surgery was a last resort, and that conservative measures should be tried first but he doesn't feel I will have any success with physio or an osteopath, or facet joint injections (the things I could think of at the time of my appointment). It is likely to take months to see a surgeon, and more time after that to actually have the surgery. The pain is DEBILITATING. Percocet and anti-inflammatory meds (Celebrex) give me some relief, but is obviously addictive and I don't like taking them. But I am desperate.

Any advice/treatment options would be appreciated.


  • sandisandi Posts: 6,343
    edited 08/09/2014 - 5:16 AM
    If the surgeon is telling you that no conservative measures are going to be helpful, and that surgery is the only method to relieve the pain and symptoms, then the only suggestion we can make is to consult with at least one other board certified thoracic surgeon if you feel you need to.
    When there is nerve compression and symptoms such as you describe, and the doctors are telling you that conservative measures are not going to be helpful, there isn't much more we can suggest.

  • KimmerbeKKimmerbe Posts: 3
    edited 08/09/2014 - 5:30 AM
    Thank you for your prompt reply. It's not what I want to hear, but it helps. Questions - 1. Can I exercise within my pain limitations? Is there any specific exercise I should avoid? 2. Any idea what a surgeon would do to correct this problem?
  • And not ones that we can answer for you. He is best equipped to advise you, he knows what exactly the images show, and don't show, and what restrictions and limitations he would recommend.
  • medanommedano Posts: 20
    edited 08/10/2014 - 3:03 AM
    Thoracic back pain is the hardest ,most painful thing I have ever been up against. I too am in a search for answers. I found what I know about here,on this site. There just isn't much information out there. There is a lot of people sharing concerns about it and there is lots about cervical and lumbar problems but not much on thoracic. There is a 1/1000000 chance to have a symptomatic herniation (If you want I can pm the link on that information), so rare in fact, I had a surgeon tell me if he knew me he'd believe me. I am trying to get to a Dr in a big city that specializes in thoracic problems. I too signed up here hoping for help. Good luck in your search for pain relief! My heart goes out to you ,I wish you only the best! Please share any help you find!!!!!!
  • I have also been dealing with Thoracic pain/rib pain for going on 2 years now. I have been working with a great spinal specialist for the last 1 1/2 years. It has been (and will be) very difficult to completely diagnose your condition and proper treatment options, as with the Thoracic spine it could be many possible issues, and not 1 treatment is right for everyone. I can tell you about my condition and treatment:
    -2 years ago I took a hard fall while snowboarding to my left side. After the accident I was sore but got no treatment.
    -2 weeks later I was lifting weights and felt (and heard) a popping sound on the left upper back. Pain started slow but grew day by day. It took me weeks to finally go see someone.
    -After 6 months of PT and no diagnosis, I switched docs (to my great current doc)
    - Had a series of cortiso-steroid injects at the T7-9 facet joints. These provided 2-3 weeks of about 75% pain relief
    - Had pain which rapped around my ribs when taking a deep breath. MRI showed nothing conclusively wrong.
    - After further work with my PT, he noticed that one rib was slightly raised and manually maniped in back in place
    - Discussed this with the doc and was finally diagnosed with 'Slipping Rib Syndrome'
    - 2 months ago I underwent Radio Frequency Ablation to T7-9 joints. My muscle pain is slightly better, but I can still feel the rib moving when I rotate and I get the sharp stabbing pain.

    I go for my next appointment in 3 weeks. I'll try to keep you posted on what else I learn.

  • @Kimmerbe  does the pain in the chest feels tight and like u have to cough and ribs hurt as if very sore black and blue and upper shoulder blades hurt so severe tender to the touch...like ton of bricks on ur back???? I have these chronic pains unexplained...had mri and it shows...spasms, neural forum, tear, two buldge disc and disgerernation....I know I misspelled alot of the words.... but u get it....I went to a orthopedic but they really didn't take to much time or to explain  much instead brushed me off quick to phy. Therapy ...so I want a second opinion ..I'm in constant pain.
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