Burning and pain down neck and arms, slipped ribs. Please help!

by Melissa
(Hammondsport, NY)


I was diagnosed with bi-lateral slipping rib, where the 10th rib goes up under the 9th. The only part that slips is the cartilage. I have had condition for 18 months. My worst pain was a constant dull pain in abdominal muscles next to ribs slipping point. After a few months of not being diagnosed, I began having upper trapezius pain, then neck and upper chest pain. I feel a tight band sensation under my collarbone that wraps around chest. I have more recently been getting burning upper arm pain, and burning near armpits. I get tingling in ring and pinky fingers on both sides. I see a chiropractor weekly, and feel it's helpful, but the ribs slide in and out all day. My MRI shows a herniated disc at T8-T9 and mild kyphosis. I also have a slight right sided turn to upper thoracic spine. I have the most pain on the right side of my body.

I have a constant need to pop my back at bra strap level and it always pops. But, then I feel the need to do it again minutes later. It took 25 doctors to get a diagnosis, and finally saw a thoracic surgeon. He said surgery is the only option to fix, but only a 50/50 chance of improvement or not injuring something else. He has never performed this operation before. Pain management will not see me because he gave a steroid/lidocaine injection into my abdominal pain point, and the pain was back 2 days later.

I would love to have some feedback, as apparently this is very rare. Do you think surgery is the only fix? I also do physical therapy weekly, the e-stim brings some relief. I have used heat, ice, dry needling, trigger point injections, and possibly every anti-inflammatory known to man. I also feel the need to push at sternum level to get more relief. Riding in a car is the worst. I have tried a rib belt, and got pneumonia, and sternum pain. KT tape is good, but I don't know if I'm doing it right. It seems to me that this injury can never heal with the rib not being in the place to connect to the cartilage. It mainly stays up under the ninth rib, and pops in and out with most activities. The collarbone pain and burning and trapezius pain are my worst pain right now, probably 7 out of 10 most of the day. Abdominal pain has settled to a 3 out of 10, which is improved. I also have developed a persistent shortness of breath only upon inhalation, where I can't take a full breath unless I lay flat on my back or a rubber roller at bra strap level. The day I hurt the rib, twisting while dancing, I started experiencing a constant need to belch, and some other GI complaints, gurgling and motility changes. I am 39, very healthy and no other issues. I am 66 inches and 115 lbs. I have 6 children and the injury happened while I was still breastfeeding number 6 baby. I would love any thoughts on exercise, or any thoughts that you could offer. Thanks so much!

Hello Melissa,
This is very trying I can see. Let's take these symptoms one at a time.

1. Abdominal pain. This is possibly due to medication you have been taking; do keep an eye on your stools; any sign of blackness is ominous and warrants an immediate consultation with your doctor. Has a diagnosis been made of the abdominal pain? My best shot at this is to start taking a probiotic. You can get it in pill form, but my recommendation is typing 'kefir benefits' into the search function on your left; then you can make it in your own home. It's very simple and the best source of calcium; 6 pregnancies will have sucked it out of you!

2. Constant need to pop your back. Unfortunately cracking your own back has made the joint even more unstable. Things will never improve until you stop doing that; very hard I know, but I'm serious. I recommend no more that 25 adjustments of a joint in a year, and you are probably doing that in a week.

3. I'm not sure about the disc herniation, uncommon, but sometimes surgery is the only solution when you've tried all else.

4. Breathing pain. Every time we take in a breath the ribs have to move to increase the volume of the lungs; it often goes with this condition.

5. Collar bone and trapezius pain, and tingling in C8 dermatome. Does the tingling increase or decrease when you raise your hand above your head, as in hanging the washing?

Run your fingers down the joints of the sternum, beginning with the sterno-clavicular. Are any of them particularly tender, and is there a little palpable swelling or lump? Go to our page on Tietze's syndrome, if you find a lump.

In short, I'm not sure and unable to examine you, it's really difficult putting my oar in; I hope the above contributes.

Dr B

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