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Unbearable pain in thoracic region every morning

Need To SleepNNeed To Sleep Posts: 7
edited 03/25/2017 - 3:44 AM in Upper Back Pain, Thoracic
Hello fellow upper back pain sufferers!

My name's Charlie and I'm a 33 yr old illustrator in London UK. I'm at my wit's end with my back issues and thought maybe somebody out there might have some advice.

I've been waking up with back pain in my upper/thoracic region every morning for the past 6 months. The pain alleviates as soon as I get up, but sometimes lingers into the day. It seems to be lingering more often over time. I have a lot of tension in my upper back and neck and can make some pretty impressive crunching noises several times a day.

I've had this problem before - 3 years ago - but was able to 'cure' the issue with sports physio. This time, however, nothing seems to work.

The pain is a sharp, heavy ache, that feels like it's deep inside me, with some emphasis on the left thoracic area. It wakes me up around 6/7am, or around 6 hours after I fall asleep. I've been taking Naproxen for about a month, which has slightly alleviated the pain, but the effects of this drug are waning. I take cocodamol when I wake up.

I've seen various physios, sports physios, osteopaths, chiropractors...the exercises I did with the sports physio helped me to overcome this issue first time round, but do not work now. I had an x-ray recently which showed slight scoliosis of the spine, which I was told could be a contributory factor to the thoracic pain.

I've been seeing a senior physio consultant (NHS) in London for the past 2 months, who has me doing 45 minutes of stretches/strengthening exercises per day. I haven't noticed an improvement yet but have been advised to stick at them. She has also advised swimming (crawl), which hasn't helped so far.

I am an illustrator by profession, so spend around 6/7 hours a day at a desk. I try to get up and move around every 45 minutes or so.

I sleep on a  CONCEPT 1400 mattress, on a wooden-slatted bed. I've read that an air mattress can be a better option, but am not convinced this would work.

The pain and intrusion on my sleep is really affecting my life now. I'm desperate to sort this out or at least feel like I'm on a path to sorting it out! Right now I'm just getting more and more used to being miserable!

Any advice appreciated, thank you.



  • You seem to be getting a lot of treatment without a conclusive diagnosis, which is never a good idea.

    In your situation I would be pressing for tests and then more tests to discover the underlying cause of your pain.

    The problem with thoracic spine injuries is not only that they mimic a variety of unrelated conditions, but also that, wrongly treated, serious, irreversible damage can be done. That's why it is imperative to establish what is causing the problem before treating it.

    I'm not young enough to know everything - Oscar Wilde
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  • Thanks for the comments and advice. After informing my NHS physio consultant that the exercises weren't improving my back issues, she literally said she had no idea what to do next, and has referred me to the Sports Physio Dept in the same hospital. Seeing them on Friday 13th(!). I am going to try to push for more tests - haven't had an MRI yet.
    Had a couple of sessions doing core training with a sports physio (private) that seemed to reduce the level of pain a little. Need to get down to the gym and continue this, though it's hard to muster the energy on so little sleep. The sessions involve sprinting on the treadmill, doing the plank, elevated pressups, and lots of other stuff.
    Purchased an RH Logic 4 chair for work, as meant to be best for back pain - made no difference so far.
    Naproxen has no effect whatsoever now so going to speak to GP about alternative pain medication.
    Pain is getting worse and lingering into the day now.
    Had an intense remedial massage the other day - was in agony throughout, and have felt no improvement as a result.
    Anyway, just thought I'd share my latest frustrations! Thanks for reading.

  • sandisandi Posts: 6,269
    edited 06/10/2014 - 7:39 AM
    It is a physical therapist who said they had no idea.........without any imaging studies to rule things in or out, it is guesswork trying to figure out what may be causing the pain.
    Needtosleep, the next step would be following up with that referral, and they should be able to order any imaging studies that they feel are necessary. Since you are in the NHS, do you also have the option for going private? If so, and you aren't satisfied with the treatment after your consult with the Sports doctor, it might be worth considering going private and consulting a surgeon once you have the imaging studies done.
    Physical therapy is just one step in getting treatment. If it was muscular, it may have helped to ease the symptoms. For now, you may want to stop the running, until you know what is causing the problem.
    Best of luck,
  • I've now been discharged from physio as none of the treatment was effective (aside from acupuncture providing very limited respite), and am now being seen by the rheumatology dept. Having another MRI next week. Apparently the cause of the pain could be related to my immune system reacting to inflammation in my spine, which was revealed in my first MRI last year.

    Anybody else have any experience of this diagnosis?


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  • Hey there,

    I was curious to know if you had ruled out the possibility of scheuermanns disease. The scenario you're describing sounds a lot like what I experienced, and the pain...UNBEARABLE! Every breath feels like a long hot dull blade being driven into the center of my back just about bringing me to my knees. The thing with scheuermanns, is you have flare ups. I feel okay for awhile but then, out of nowhere, BAM! WelCome to hell.

    If you Google scheuermanns disease, it will show you pictures of people that are affected the worst. You would never be able to tell by looking at me and from what I understand, it isn't a degenerative disease. It's a malformation in the vertebrae that the diagnosed party was born with.
    Rachel stone
  • Rest.upRRest.up Posts: 1
    edited 07/03/2015 - 6:10 AM
    Not sure if it's the sand thing but I also suffer from severe upper back pain especially in the morning ... Sometimes it's so hard to even turn to my side .. I find the more I eat the worse it becomes. I'm currently having it investigated but thought if you haven't had a blood test you should try that.
    I keep getting recurring uveitis so the eye hospital found that I have HLA B27 gene .. Which basically causes inflammation that they say explains the uveitis, but it could also be the Eason for the back problem. Mine is still undergoing investigation and awaiting an MRI but I hope you find out what it is as that makes it easier to deal with.

    Take care

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  • itsautonomicitsautonomic LouisianaPosts: 2,561
    Need to sleep , glad something showed up that may clue in on the reason. As the last couple of posters listed so many things can cause pain. Its all about getting correct diagnosis and then cant find correct treatment. Keep everyone updated
    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.
  • Need To SleepNNeed To Sleep Posts: 7
    edited 02/25/2015 - 8:20 AM
    Hi everyone

    Thanks so much for the feedback and advice. following another MRI, X-ray, and blood tests, I've now been diagnosed with mild ankylosing spondylitis, which - I think - is a form of arthritis. The early morning agony is caused by inflammation in the spine. Treatment for now is just ibuprofen / naproxen / cocodamol / physio, but further down the line, if the vertebrae start to fuse (which is what AS causes), then I will have to use treatment that reduces the activity of my immune system as that's what leads to the painful inflammation. Which can then obviously make you susceptible to serious infection. It's basically the spine malforming and growing new bone. Gross!! Hopefully it won't get to that point - going to keep doing lots of exercise, stretching etc, and seeing the NHS rheumatology doctor every 2 months. Good to finally get some light shed on what's been a very painful and frustrating experience for the past 3 years, but pretty worrying all the same. I'm also experiencing sporadic pins & needles in my right arm which is due to some slight nerve damage in the vertabrae in my neck, from me manipulating it too much due to tension! So my advice would be to not do that. Pins and needles every day is bloody annoying!

    Thanks again

  • Bart_ManBBart_Man Posts: 1
    edited 08/21/2015 - 7:47 AM
    Hi Charlie, or "need to sleep". I am so glad I found your post, as I have the exact same symptoms you do. Doctors here in Canada keep saying that it's a mechanical problem with my spine, but none of them can explain why I'm in agony in the morning and why it goes away during the course of the day. I'm from Europe originally and I'm going to go there to have some tests done (doctors in Canada can't even spell the only language they speak, let alone make a correct diagnosis of anything other than a common cold).

    Anyway, I have other very obvious issues with my immune system, causing two distinct auto immune problems in my body, AS is not a far stretch.

    By the way I'm not the kind of person who reads symptoms and then starts to become convinced that what I'm reading about is what I have (hypochondriac), but it fits the picture a hundred percent.

    I'll get some MRIs done, thanks for telling your story man! I'm 34 by the way. I don't have any pins and needles, but sometimes get a numbness in my left arm, and it's not due to my heart. Could be related to the spine, could not be, we'll see.

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