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I will try to keep this as brief as possible, but, I tend to get too wordy, so I'm sorry in advance.
I'm a 34 year old female. I've had back pain off and on since around 2003. I've never sought medical attention for it as for much of that time I had poor insurance coverage or no coverage. I worked starting in April 2001 as a stocker in a retail setting stocking pet food (think around 15 pallets a night of 20-40lb bags of cat litter, dog food and cat food and then several more pallets of smaller stuff). My workplace did not use a powered pallet jack, so I spent several hours of every shift pulling pallets to and from the sales floor including pallets of water and the occasional double stacked pallet.. Most of the pallets I pulled varied in weight from around 1200 lbs to a bit over 2000 lbs. After I left that job around 2007, I went to work in a warehouse as a stocker, this time with the repetitive motion of spinning a box, cutting the top off and then loading it into racking. Minimum allowed rate was 200 cases per hour. I did that for another year or so. Left that job when I moved and did another few months as a stocker, again, stocking pet food in a retail environment. Was laid off from that in December 2008. Finally found work again in around June 2011 in a home call center, but, that was a temp position. In October 2011 started working as a stocker again, this time in a home improvement store. Stocked cans and buckets of paint, washing machines, tool benches and so on. Again, pulled pallets to and from the sales floor.
Knew I couldn't do that kind of work much longer, I started working on an AA degree in 2009, finally got an AA degree and managed to get a job as a library clerk. Still have to shelve books, but, intensity is a lot lower, carts of books are lighter than pallets, so definitely an improvement. I've enjoyed a couple years now of very minimal back pain. Around two weeks ago I sneezed and immediately had a sharp stabbing pain in my neck/upper back. I couldn't turn my neck from side to side for a couple days, but, then it improved and I didn't worry about it. Just figured it was some weird fluke thing. Didn't seek medical attention because I could manage the pain by just not turning my head for a couple days.
So, this past Wednesday I was awakened by stabbing pain in my upper back/neck. The pain radiates down my shoulder and left arm. I have some numbness and tingling in my fingers on that side. Laying down is very painful. Sitting isn't much better. The most comfortable I can get is standing. I've slept maybe a combined 2 hours since Wednesday morning at 6 AM or so, it's currently Saturday at 5 PM. Wednesday, I made it to work for about an hour and then couldn't continue as I could stay seated more than a few minutes. My coworkers suggested a chiropractor and he was able to see me on Wednesday and did an X ray of my neck. On Thursday he reviewed the results with me and attempted an adjustment. I couldn't quite manage to keep it together through a whole adjustment, it was just way too painful. Unfortunately, he realized that my symptoms fit better with a C6 issue but his Xray only went to C5. Thursday night the pain was unbearable and I ended up driving to the local ER. Mostly, I was concerned that something could be seriously wrong as I was having chest pain too and this pain is like nothing I've had before. Anyways, for whatever reason, the ER staff acted like I was some drug addict seeking narcotics and did nothing but a pregnancy test and sent me on my way. They did no Xray, no MRI, no ECG, nothing but a pregnancy test. Friday I was finally able to see my doctor. She also didn't order any testing, but, did give me a couple injections of lidocaine near my spine. That has taken it from extreme agony to miserable, but, not nauseous from the pain when standing. She told me to take Ibuprofen and gave me a prescription for 10 days of Tizanidine. I still cannot sit for more than 5 minutes and now I can lie down for around 10 minutes. Once during the night I was able to lie down for almost 30 minutes, but, that was only one segment.
Anyways, I need a bit of guidance for how to get better care while I deal with this. I'm just a naturally stoic person which means I get really crappy medical care. I shattered my ring finger at work when I was 18, taped the mop to my hand so I could finish my shift and then drove myself to the hospital after work, I was told to go to regular doctor on Monday and that it was probably a sprain, that was a Thursday. So, waited til Monday and the doctor I saw flipped out about it and said I would probably need an amputation and why did I wait so long. (Healed, but, with joint partially fused) When I was 23, I tripped while jogging and broke both my radius and ulna in my left arm, it wasn't a hairline, it was a complete break in both. Ulna was in three pieces. I drove myself to the hospital in a stick shift car with manual steering. When I arrived, the triage nurse told me I would be crying if I broke my arm and told me I was wasting time needed for serious cases. They made me wait over 6 hours before seeing me, they only finally saw me when my Dad showed up after work to demand that they see me. They told him that I needed to wait and see my regular doctor on Monday because they were too busy to deal with strains and sprains. My dad pointed out that my arm was flopping loose between my elbow and wrist and that perhaps I shouldn't have a second elbow. They finally actually looked at my arm and then I finally got rushed back, but then my arm was huge and purple. In 2010, I was pregnant with my daughter and started having some concerning symptoms, the doctor I was seeing told me I was worrying about nothing and sent me home. I called a whole bunch of OB/GYN's as soon as I got home and got one to see me the next day, I had preeclampsia at 26 weeks. That doctor was very good and got me into a cardiologist and really went the extra mile. We did every trick she could think of and managed to hold off to week 34 when I had an emergency C-section.
So, there's my medical history. Basically, I get really crappy care as the general rule.
I know this thing has been coming on for awhile. A few years ago, I started getting a sharp pain in that area whenever I sneezed. The pain would last a few minutes and go away. But, it was a awfully sharp pain and was suspicious that it was coming from the general region where I used to feel discomfort at the end of my stocking shift.
I do have insurance, but, I have a heck of a time getting any imaging. I had an ovarian cyst during my pregnancy in 2010 and have had no luck getting that thing re-imaged since. It's been 7 years and I can swear I feel the darn thing. When I look down at my abdomen, one side is larger than the other. Anyhow, my doctor just finally decided to order and ultrasound for that while I was in for the back/neck thing.
Anyways, this neck/back thing is way too painful to tolerate for years. I'm willing to skip dealing with my insurance and just hunt down an imaging place that will do tests without a prescription. What imaging should I try to get? I found a place an hour away that will do CT without a prescription and I found another place that will do an MRI without a prescription.
Any other advice would be great.