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Back needs to be cracked/popped constantly for relief - what's wrong?

FoogooFFoogoo Posts: 4
edited 06/11/2012 - 7:49 AM in Chronic Pain
Hi everyone, I'm glad to have found this forum and I'm hoping your experiences can help me!

My situation is exactly the same as the poster(s) from this thread created about two years ago. Here's the long story of how my pain began:

I was deployed to Iraq two years ago when I was 23, which as you can imagine, involved a lot of sleeping on cots/the ground/crummy bunks and wearing/carrying a lot of weight. My back would be sore, but that was obviously expected. When I returned in 2009, my back pain did not go away and actually started getting worse.

I first went to the VA doc who took x-rays, he said nothing is wrong other than slight scoliosis to the right. The VA took more x-rays and found nothing wrong, also denying my claim of service connection. I went to a chiropractor who did some manual adjustment and activator but otherwise found nothing wrong. I went to a physical therapist who said my spine is slightly misaligned and advised me to roll on a foam roller.

Currently, the pain is the worst when I'm sitting or standing for more than 30 minutes or so. My back (primarily mid-back) will start feeling very painful and tight. I can flex my back or twist in my chair and it will crack slightly, but doesn't bring significant relief. I can only get relief by using the foam roller on the floor, in which case my spine would crack loudly in a few places and it will feel better for 20 minutes or so. Rinse and repeat.

I have an appointment with the pain management clinic at the VA on Monday. Does anyone have any idea what may be wrong? Obviously most of the docs I saw don't. I want relief, but first I need to know what's wrong. I would also like to be able to convince the VA there is something very wrong with me resulting from military service. Thanks in advance.


  • First of all, thanks for your service. The problem at the VA system, is getting in to the right department. The pain doc there is likely to just provide muscle relaxers and non-steroidals, may a mild narcotic; but I don't believe they research into the "cause" of the pain. Try to get referred to the ortho department, and maybe see if you can get an MRI to find out whats going on.
    BTW - the pain being worse when your back CONUS may just be because the lack of "distraction" (such as mortar hitting nearby) allows you to think about the pain.Good luck.

  • I agree with optimist that an MRI would be a good idea to see the soft tissues (discs, ligaments etc).

    A very warm welcome to Spine Health.

    I hope that you can find out what is causing your pain, then hopefully you will be able to work at solving it.
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  • Welcome to Spine-Health and thank you for your service.

    I've done the foam roller thing and understand mid-back pain. I wouldn't discount your pain coming from your cervical area, so if your lumbar MRI/x-ray looks ok, you might consider getting a cervical MRI/xray too.

    I say this because my cervical problems began with pain in the middle of my upper back also. It was muscle spasms due to cervical problems, so I just wanted to let you know that it might be wise to have both your lumbar and cervical areas checked out.

    Good luck and please keep us posted.
  • For your service. You need to get with your VA rep or county Va rep immediately. They can get you through the red tape and formalities because they have the direct lines to the offices you need and often they can schedule the appointment for you. I am military and like you I will be getting out soon because of my injuries to my spine. Fight for the MRI. Good luck to you.
    Live one day at a time and do it with no regrets. I hold my head up high with pride to the fact that i wont let my injury beat me.
    Lumbar surgery 2009
    Cervical fusion C4 to C7 2009
    Neurostimulator 2010
    Heart ablation 2011
    Lumbar fusion L4 to S1 2012 and now L1 2 3 and 4 are split and bulging.
  • After 3 yrs of steroid injections for low back pain, I developed this same thing very recently. My neurosurgeon says its facet arthopathy that causes it. You can put up with the minor discomfort for a long time; but, the day will come that it won't crack anymore, and you won't be able to get relief. Then, you get on the steroid/anti-inflammatory/pain meds merry-go-round; more time passes until you hurt so badly that you go get surgery. I had a really extensive surgery on 12/1/10 and won't know for quite a while how it turns out. Get an MRI and have a look, Good Luck to ya.
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  • How did you get on with your pain management clinic on Monday?
  • Thanks for all the replies, my apologies for not updating my post. Work and life got ridiculously busy, can't say I'm enjoying it, but it pays the bills right?

    The VA pain doc diagnosed me with scoliosis. Unlike most of the general clinic docs, this one seemed concerned and caring. Though he wouldn't directly attribute the pain to the scoliosis (probably due to his scope?), he implied it may be the cause and said he believes it can be corrected. He referred me to the pain clinic for PT, who were supposed to call me to set up an appointment, but they hadn't and I'd forgotten about it. I know, lack of responsibility on my part, but all I can think about at the end of a 14 hour day is getting food and sleep.

    Is it common/possible for scoliosis to cause this relatively mild but highly uncomfortable spinal pain? I'm going to try and go to a private PT clinic which should hopefully be more accommodating with my schedule.

    Thanks again, and I'll remember to check back often!
  • Foogoo,

    Howdy, we are a bit different, but are we? I crashed a helicopter, and within the year, I was diagnosed with "double scoliosis" and the Neurologist at the time gave no guarantees... He was able to "realign" me with manipulations, TENS, and massages. If you aren't deemed permanent damage...maybe the same can be done for you? Former Army here, but I use my private insurance so I can go to whom I wish vs VA...

    PCTF C4 - T2, Laminectomies C5, C6 & C7. Severe Palsy left arm/hand.
  • Thanks for the reply Brenda.

    Based on your experiences with scoliosis, who do you think I should see for some results finally instead of another referral? I'm planning on using my private insurance as well, the VA's appointment times are about as good as null.


    Edit: Despite the scoliosis diagnosis, will an MRI (which so many of you have recommended) still shed some light? Will it be able to support or refute the scoliosis diagnosis?
  • Hi everyone,

    Instead of jumping around and being referred here and there again, I'd like to do this correctly so I'd like your input on how to get started.

    -Who should I see that would best be able to address my back/spine? Pain management doctor? Orthopaedic surgeon?

    -I'm going to try and get my xrays from the VA, should I get an MRI before visiting him/her? Or wait to see if the doc determines one is necessary?

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