Chronic stiffness and pain in the midback

by Lauren
(Atlanta, GA)

Chronic stiffness and pain in the midback is a very common malady.

I've been to my primary physician, who ordered an MRI...The results were basically that I had a slight degeneration on the right side of my T9 which makes sense because that's where I feel numbness, tingling, etc...and the burning and aching that I have had for years. It usually comes and goes which I have been able to handle, but this past year it's been awful, and basically hasn't gone away. It's proceeded to run up the right side of my back, and into my neck and shoulders.

But before I get into that, the Primary basically told me that I could do stretching, physical therapy, take Advil, etc, but the disc isn't even that bad, so he's not sure why I am in so much pain.

I scheduled an appointment with an orthopedist to see if there was anything I could do or if he saw anything else that the primary didn't. He said the same thing about my back as far as the disc, but then diagnosed me with 'text neck' which he said may be causing the back pain (he took an xray). He recommended physical therapy. I did that for a while, which I have been through before in the past, and I already do those daily, which don't help. I am still in pain.

I have had my back adjusted 4 times and my neck the first time last Tuesday by a chiropractor. I'm not sure what he did, but I have never been in more pain. As I type, my back in the spot is tingling, throbbing, etc. I have to get up all the time to relieve pressure. Going up my spine from that spot is burning, tightness, and it basically feels like I did a strenuous workout when I didn't. The tightness is the worst. It's all around my neck, and in the front in my chest and throat. Everything burns. I feel like my entire upper spine is swollen and inflamed and at this point, I don't know what the next step should be.

Is this normal to still feel this way? Do you think i just feel this way because I sit in a crappy chair on hard tile floor all day? Another thought was I have never given up weight lifting during this time, and I'm wondering if I am not letting my body heal? I don't know what to do. I just need some advice.

Hello Lauren,
Firstly, some pain after treatment for a chronic condition is not unusual; perhaps he was over enthusiastic. Talk to your chiropractor frankly about this reaction to his treatment; if he refuses to take it seriously, go elsewhere.

Secondly, numbness and tingling from slight degenerative change in the midback is unusual. If it continues, I'd ask for an MRI; other conditions unseen on plain film may lurk; they are rare but do happen.

Thirdly, continuing with weight lifting whilst having treatment is not wise in my book; I would have advised you to stop for a period. Your spine is vulnerable during chiropractic treatment. It's a time to be a little more cautious.

Do you have any pain under the armpit, or around the breastbone?

I just lifted this from concerning Advil; Advil may also cause stomach or intestinal bleeding, which can be fatal.

There's no easy solution to chronic spinal pain; I won't pretend that chiropractic is a magical potion. Also be looking at gentle daily exercise, support for your elbow if using a mouse for long periods and a regular massage. And then the less obvious things like when did you last have a proper restful holiday, and what's your diet like?

Health is additive and it's not impossible that all of these, and more, are contributing to your misery.

I hope this gives you something to think about.

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 have left alone. After seven treatments his pain and stiffness is 50 percent better, and he is 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 is 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 pain-free. 

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 is well pleased; sixty-five percent better after three treatments.

5. Mr T is a wise man; he has 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 stroll 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; he has a short leg.

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. X-rays 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 few months 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 is a non-complicated upper cervical facet syndrome, and she is doing well.

12. Mr D is a 38-year 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 could not 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 should not be treating the elderly most medical sites state but that is so much bunkum.

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