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20 years old, in good shape, near-perfect MRIs... why have I been having upper back pain for nearly


I'm a 20 year old female (5'1", 110 lbs, small chest) who has been experiencing upper back and neck pain since May 2014 (going on 20 months now).
I woke up one day with extreme pain in my neck down my right arm so strong that I could not even lift my arm to brush my teeth. I stayed in bed all day. I had not had any car accidents/trauma/etc that caused it - I just woke up one day with it. By the next day, it was manageable enough that I could get up and walk around, but still extremely painful. Over the past several months, it has moved from being primarily neck-based and focused on the left side to include (and be worst in) my upper back, particularly the area between the shoulder blades.
Pain gets worse when sitting at a desk, even with proper posture. Pain feels its best when walking for long periods of time. The whole area has a sore, achy feeling almost constantly. My vertebrae are extremely tender to the touch. Basically everywhere from where a bra hook would be and above is in pain. There are frequent popping sensations in my upper back outside of the spine area (tendons?)
I've been to sports medicine docs, a physiatrist, a chiropractor, a pain management doctor, and I've done three rounds of PT. MRIs have shown a slight bulge at the C4-C5 location but it is not large enough to be causing such pain all over my upper back. I've bought a new mattress and pillow to no avail. I've gone on Cymbalta (worked my way up to 60 mg) which helped with underlying depression and anxiety but hasn't helped with the pain at all. Muscle relaxers (Flexeril 10 mg) also doesn't make a difference. Trigger point injections (lidocaine) haven't done anything either.
Does anyone have any ideas of what I should do to treat this? I'm considering going to a rheumatologist to see if it's fibromyalgia given the spreading and long term nature of it. I'm pretty discouraged because I am pretty young and healthy to be experiencing pain that makes sitting through an hourlong class difficult. I'm also interested in a career path that requires significant stooping and physical exertion (archaeology) and am afraid I might never recover from this and be able to work in the field. Thanks for your help.


  • SavageSavage United StatesPosts: 5,427
    edited 01/15/2016 - 7:35 AM
    You spoke of near perfect spine noted from MRIs.
    Was wondering if you've had any other testing?

    I think you said you've been working with pain management?
    He should be able to test re the fibromyalgia you spoke of, and make referral as needed.
    Rheumatologist may be good idea.
    New set of eyes may be helpful.
    I am a big believer in specialists, so I would think worth investigating.

    Many of my spinal issues were revealed with EMG testing.
    At least most of my understanding came from EMG results.
    I have severe thoracic symptoms...among others.
    When first discover, my thoracic and cervical areas, PM doctor told me I had injured myself.

    I had no memory and denied, but I had a friend with me at visit who reminded me of the times I had fallen backwards, first time, backwards off top of ladder while painting.
    But I never felt injured, so I just forgot all about it.

    Has your primary done other testing to rule out other issues?
    Curious who you are seeing for continued investigating of your symptoms.

    I look forward to following your thread and other members' experiences.
    Spine-Health Moderator
    Please read my medical history at: Medical History

  • Thanks for the reply. I should add that I have had EMG testing on the arm where my symptoms initially appeared. The neurologist said it was all clear. I've got a rheum appointment for a couple of weeks from now. I'll update on the situation then.
  • itsautonomicitsautonomic LouisianaPosts: 1,802
    edited 01/16/2016 - 4:34 AM
    Always remember MRI miss annular tears in discs often among other things. Not saying that's what it is just stating a fact
    Do your due dilegence, trust you know your body and question everything if it does not fit. Advocate for yourself and you will be suprised what will be revealed trusting your body and instinct.
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