Severe pain after "fill in" chiro adjustment

Pain under shoulder blade and at the sternum.

Pain under shoulder blade and at the sternum.

Injury May 13th - "fill-in" chiropractor made adjustment. Never met them, didn't speak more than two words to me. Applied sudden severe pressure to adjust back. Three times? Nothing cracked. That has never happened before. Then they proceeded to crack my neck, which cracked.

I realize now I really had no business going for that chiropractic treatment. I went to make an appointment for my husband; I found them through my gym and was advised in order to get promotion I had to go too. Previously worked out 3-5 times a week since Oct 2015, yoga retreat about a week before.

Instantly didn't feel right. Immediate pain under right breast felt like my rib was turned upright. Pain radiating between spine and rt shoulder. Main concern was that I could only take shallow breaths, shooting pains in right shoulder and upper back mainly rt side. Achy, stabbing.

X-rays taken 48 hrs after injury Sunday morning went to ER at 4am couldn't sleep since injury and couldn't get comfortable sitting, standing, laying. Did not see broken ribs or fracture. Dx- muscle tear

Original chiropractor made adjustment same night as injury. Called him during the day and he met me at his office. Another adjustment after ER and a few more the following week. Realized it wasn't helping so I advised I would like to stop going. He advised 3-5 massages. He paid for first one and then got weird after massage therapist wouldn't speak with him about it. I wore belt from chiropractor for about 4-6 weeks over ribs & biofreeze. Had 4? Additional 1 hr massages she would work pressure points and gave slightest temporary relief from right after injury May to July.

Made appt (June 10th) to see back/spine specialist and saw Dr. W (PA?) I brought X-rays from ER and he took additional x-rays and sent for MRI. No fractures discovered so stated if nothing comes back on MRI he was certain it was costochondritis. Advised it'll take 8-12 weeks and I could start working out again. Sent me to Athletico. He also referred me to pain specialist, Dr. F. Also prescribed 6 day steroid, pill form - no relief from that.

I've been going to Athletico 2x a week since June 10th. They have been doing ultrasound, electrical stimulation, myofascial massage and a few exercises to strengthen lower shoulder in later couple of weeks.

June 12 saw Dr.F(pain specialist?). Dx with winging of the scapula and prescribed Gabapentin & diclofenac. Advised continue w/ Athletico.

Athletico stumped and didn't understand why still not getting better. Referred me to go to shoulder specialist, Dr. C. Got into Dr. C 08/08. He advised pain of scapula or suspected pinched nerve and injected under scapula. Advised if for any reason I do not get instant relief he's certain it's a pinched nerve in my neck. No relief- and went downhill from there.

Before injection Monday the tingling in my rt hand and numbness would come and go. Since injection it's 24/7 feels like my hand is asleep. Neck and upper back and mid back very painful and shoulder area still hurting. Feeling achy in rt side lower back. Feeling a lot more pain from cervical spine, does feel like a pinched nerve but kind of weird pain was radiating so much between spine and rt shoulder before injection.

Got appt right away to see Dr. F again 08/10. Advised on Dr. C appt. He did x-rays on cervical spine and said c5 looked compressed? Also ordered MRI of cervical spine 08/15. Dx is Brachial neuritis or radiculitis NOS. Advised he wants me to get MRI but he thinks I will need spinal injections and/or epidural?

Called to make sure previous MRI was of thoracic spine or else to include and spoke with nurse from back/spine office nurse for Dr W and Dr. F? . She went back from beginning and did chronical order. She said I should not be seeing Dr. F and to cancel appts with him. She said to go to MRI Monday morning still and immediately go to Dr. M's office in and to make sure I did not drive there myself. She said there are way too many ppl and he is a Spine Surgeon. She advised they will be able to send unread images over to him right away and he would be able to read them in his office and make sure I get a proper dx. She said given how this injury occurred by chiropractor she strongly strongly advised I see this Dr.

Dr. M advised herniated disc at c7 & t1. Had spinal injection same day with Dr. F 08/15. Had emg test with abnormal results. 2nd injection 08/29. I did seem to get some relief from injections but shooting pains are back as of yesterday. Can have 3rd injection but then need to wait 6mos after that. Advised I may need to get injections every 6 mos to a year. Follow-up with Dr. M this coming Monday, September 12th to see if I need surgery. Also have appt set for Neurologist Oct. 19th is earliest they can get me in but Dr. working on trying to get me in sooner. Dr. advised that when I had adjustment something happened where something got stretched which is inflaming all of these nerves.

Tried to make a long story short. Please advise if you have any other questions. Thanks for your time. Still unable to lift children, workout or resume daily activities/ routine. Can't wait until this nightmare is over.

I can have 3rd injection. This Thursday going for 2nd MRI of C spine this time with contrast, and MRAs of brain and neck. Also having 2nd emg test this Monday. I'm in so much pain. The shooting pain in shoulder is now back with vengeance. I am experiencing shooting pains in neck and back again and my back is in severe spasm.

What the hell is wrong with me? What did this chiropractor do to me?

Dear Lauren,
A real tale of woe.

First a question. You say that in order for your husband to get the promotion, "I had to go too." Does that mean you had to go with him for the consultation, or you also had to have a treatment? If it was the latter, then the whole situation from beginning to end smacks of a scam. If it's not broken, don't fix it.

Half of me feels for your chiropractor; we all have to take leave. Nevertheless it is his responsibility to get a locum who is both competent and ethical.

The other half has no sympathy at all; why did he hire someone who "spoke no more than two words" to you, in other words took no case history, and presumably did an equally shoddy, or non existent examination of your spine?

It would appear Lauren that you have had two injuries.

1. The heavy manipulation in the middle of your back subluxated a rib head, hence the stabbing pain in the midback, and simultaneously injured the cartilage at the costo-sternal junction; you may develop a condition known as Tietze's syndrome. Look out for a swollen lump at the breastbone. The treatment of choice for this is a gentle "anterior" rib adjustment and plenty of soft tissue work along the rib, and mobilising of the whole rib from the joints with the spine, to the attachment at the sternum. Absolutely avoid any heavy posterior to anterior midback manipulation.

2. The second injury is really more serious, and I think Dr C has probably got it right. When exactly did the numbness and tingling in your right hand begin? And precisely which fingers are affected. If you turn your head to the right, and then look up, do you get pain in the neck, and radiating down the arm? Using the search function at Chiropractic Help, find "upper limb tension test" and ask your husband to help you do the test. Is there strong tightness or pain in the right lower arm?

A C5 area injury could be radiating down to the midback area, further complicating the first injury of the rib, but is unlikely to go to your hand.

But a C7/T1 is likely to affect the pinkie and ring finger.

There's nothing wrong with you, Lauren. You've been injured by an incompetent. The real question now is how you are going to get well again. If you dare to go to a chiropractor ever again, then I would contact your local state chiropractic association, ask to speak to the chairman, and ask for his advice, and the name of a very experienced chiropractor in your area. Take all your scans and a typed report similar to what you wrote above.

Ask for an examination only, without treatment, and if you feel you've been well received, listened to, properly examined then perhaps you will feel encouraged to go for further treatment; at whose cost I've no idea. Probably yours.

The rib injury should respond and get better; the hernia in your neck will likely be more difficult; that you will find out after the next MRI; the surgeons are obviously also unsure.

You have been subjected to what is known as iatrogenic disease; doctor-caused illness, by the sound of things, though obviously I have not examined you, and this is presumptious. It is the third most common disease, but is only rarely serious like this in the chiropractic setting.

If I can be of any further assistent, you have only to reply.

Dr B

Click here to post comments

Join in and write your own page! It's easy to do. How? Simply click here to return to LOVE HATE.


Did you find this page useful? Then perhaps forward it to a suffering friend. Better still, Tweet or Face Book it.


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.



Have a problem that's not getting better? Looking for a different slant on your pain? Want to pose a question?


Interesting questions from visitors

CLS writes:

Greetings, Dr B.
You helped me quite some time back with a soothing and professional response which turned out to be exactly correct. I now consult a local chiropractor. You write a superb newsletter, too.

Your own unresolved problem. Pose a question

Knowing that up to 70% of the time the correct diagnosis is made with no examination, no special tests, no xrays, but just from the history, there's a fair chance I can add some insight to your unresolved problem. But at least 30% of the time, I may be quite wrong! Give plenty of detail if you want a sensible reply.


You visited this chiropractic help site no doubt because you have a problem that is not resolving and want to know more about what chiropractors do.

The quickest and most interesting way is to read one of my ebooks of anecdotes. Described by a reader as gems, both funny and healthful, from the life and work of a chiropractor, you'll love them. Priced right at $2.99, though Kindle fiddles the price without telling me.