Extreme pain in upper back only left side since 2008 when I fell on the ice

by Jodi
(Edmonton, Alberta, Canada )

Extreme pain in upper back only left side since 2008 when I fell on the ice is always going to be problematic if your fracture a vertebra.

Hi, I fell on ice walking down a hill in 2008, landed completely on my upper back, knocked the wind out of myself and hit the back of my head hard enough to break my hair clip. Had a belt on for work that weighs about 25 pounds at the time and I weighed 125 pounds. X-ray 3 days later showed nothing but another one a month later showed a T4 compression fracture. In increasing pain since, now severe. Pain is only on left side. From middle of spine and over to the left starting around the height of bra strap up to almost my shoulder. Pain also wraps around my trunk to the front about to the nipples on each side at the level of bra strap and feels like a vice grip getting tighter and tighter.

The worst part though feels like a knife is sticking out of the area of my left scapula. No neck pain or not often.

When my upper back pain is really bad I do sometimes feel it on left side of neck but not usually. I've done physio (made it much worse) as did chiropractor. Nothing has helped. Ct scan done in 2011 showed facet joints damaged from T4-T7 I think it was.

Desperate for help. Only small bit of relief from cortisone injection and pain killers but still in significant pain all the time. 24-7. Pain gets worse if doing anything where I need to lift arms above my head or out in front of me such as driving. I need to keep arms at my side hanging. Can't twist from side to side and laying, sitting or standing if in one position too long all hurt.

When sleeping though it feels better if I lie on my left side (the side that hurts) as opposed to lying on my right side. I can't lay on my back at all and laying on my stomach causes all kinds of muscle spasms in my left upper back area. Please tell me what you think this could be. Thank you, Jodi

Hello Jodi,
A few questions:

1. Think hard. Did the chiropractor adjust your back hard whilst lying on you tum? And did s/he adjust it with you lying on your back with his hand under your back. Can you remember? Try and describe the treatment to me.

2. If you take in a deep breath does it hurt; was it ever painful with deep inspiration?

3. Run your fingers down your breastbone. Is it more painful on one of the ribs where they join the sternum? Is there a lump?

4. Lie on your right side and ask a friend/ partner to run their fingers using a little oil from the painful area in the midback, along the ribs, under the armpit, under the breast and then to joint with the sternum. Now compare with the naughty side whilst lying on your left. Is there a significant difference?

5. Could you type out a copy of the x-ray resport?

Let me know.

Dr B

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Interesting challenges of the day

1. Mr S is a 76 year old man with neck pain of some 9 months duration. Luckily, most of the discomfort is upper cervical which is only rarely arthritic; his lower cervical spine is a degenerative mess that I've left alone. After seven treatments his pain and stiffness is 50 percent better, and he's happy in the circumstances. He can sleep through the night now and that makes a huge difference.

2. Mr P is 32 year old man with very severe lower back pain radiating to the big toe which is 30 percent numb. He had an episode three weeks ago, took anti inflammatories and was soon better as is typical of the medial disc herniation. But before it healed, after a trivia it came roaring back, much worse. The characteristic crossed sign was evident; sitting in a chair, straightening the right leg provoked severe left back pain and tingling in the leg. He's doing well.

3. Severe lower back pain is scary; just ask Mrs P. Just watching her get out of the car I she was in trouble; she had a slipped disc at L4 making her lean towards the opposite side; luckily she had no pain in the leg. Despite family pressure that this was far too severe for a chiropractor, she persevered. Within five days she was standing upright, and after two weeks almost painfree. 

Despite a hectic job, she wisely took my advice and stayed home for what I call exercising bed rest.

4. Mr S has had lower back, groin and back of thigh and calf pain for fourth months.

He has a pincer deformity in the hip causing the stabs in the groin, and a degenerative facet causing the sciatica. Both are responding well to chiropractic and he's well pleased; sixty five percent better after three treatments.

5. Mr T is a wise man; he's taken a warning TIA seriously and has lost 15 pounds, and has at least as much again to lose. A change to a low starch diet and half hour daily walk has made the difference; but the walking is making his foot and back miserable. The expensive orthotic is hopeless; luckily his hips and back are fine, but he needs a simple heel lift.

6. I too have had serious lower back issues, luckily fixed by my own chiropractor; so I too have to do my exercises, take care when lifting supers full of honey, gardening and using the chainsaw. Regaining the function of your spine is just as important as the pain.

7. My own granddaughter, only 7 is hypermobile giving her pelvic, knee and ankle issues. Xrays show a mildly dysplastic hip. Years ago we would have called it growing pains. She too regularly needs chiropractic care and luckily responds well. Increased range of motion is more difficult than too stiff in my opinion. Our care is for kids too.

8. This 65 year old lady is a serious gardener; every day she is bending, lifting and digging for 2 to 3 hours a day. It regularly catches her in the sacroiliac joint, so she has a treatment once a month that sorts it out. She does her lower back exercises faithfully.

9. This 88 year old lady is an inspiration; every day she is busy in the community. With a nasty scoliosis she manages very well with a chiropractic adjustment every six weeks and exercises faithfully done.  

10. Mr X is a 71 year old retired man who wants to continue with maintenance care every six to eight weeks; he had suffered from two years of lower back pain when he first came a year ago. He has no discomfort now after 8 chiropractic treatments, but is aware that danger lurks.

11. Mrs C has been having severe headaches, and taking a lot of analgesics. It's a non complicated upper cervical facet syndrome, and she's doing well.

12. Mr D is a 38 old year man with chronic shoulder pain after a rotator cuff tear playing cricket. It responded well to treatment, but he knows he must do his exercises every day; for two years he couldn't sleep on that shoulder.

13. Mr D, a 71 year old man, has a severe ache in the shoulder and midback since working above his head. Trapped nerve tests are negative but he has advanced degenerative joints of Luschka; after just two treatments he is 50 percent better. Can we reach 90?

And so the day goes; chiropractors shouldn't be treating the elderly most medical sites state but that's so much bunkum.

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