Deep upper back pain after manipulation from a layperson

by Morgan
(Midland tx)

Hello, I am a 21 student athlete and I've been dealing with an issue that's really sucked the life out of me for the past year and a half. In March of 2016 I had one of friends attempt to pop my back while I lay face down on the ground and my head turned to the left. (Every person and Doctor's first response is always,"Well why did you do that?", so if you could spare me that response I would much appreciate it, I tell myself enough that every day)

Anyway, my friend is about twice my size and he gave max effort into this "crack". At first I felt fine, and got back on the couch and started watching tv. About 5 minutes in I began to get "tunnel vision" and felt as if I was about to pass out. Not too long after I experienced one of the worst and most uncomfortable pains of my life. (I've broken my arm before and always felt I've handled pain very well, but this type of pain has consumed me for the past year and half).

About 20 minutes into the nonstop pain I called the ambulance. I was in full on panic attack. They took me to the hospital, did a couple of X-rays that came back negative. Over the next 7 months I had taken MRi's, Ct scans, bone scans, and X-rays of all areas of my spine to my chest, head, and neck. The only test that showed any kind of problem was the bone scan taken 7 months after the injury. The scan showed a lot of light directly on and to the right of where a rib connects to the sternum.

Now the most evidential aspect of all this to me is that this spot near my sternum actually protrudes from my chest where there was no protrusion there all my life. (I will include a picture of this). The strange part about it was I haven't really experienced too much pain in that area, however I have felt that my breathing has been obstructed in this area every since the injury. Also a feeling of being choked or gagged. It's hard to finish a cough and I've even felt like my voice is more shaken than previous years. I've also dealt with headaches, shoulder and elbow pain, and a sort of brain fog if you will. I've just felt in a daze ever since this happened. Perhaps it's just the overwhelming pain. The most noticeable symptom that constantly reminds me something is wrong and a lot of doctors just brush off, is the constant cracking in my neck, shoulder blades, and sternum. I've tried soft and hard touch chiropractic, acupuncture, physical therapy, PRP and cortisone injections all with very little to no relief.

I'm almost to the point where I get my friend to do the same manipulation back the other way. I know this sounds barbaric, but is this a type of case where someone manipulated me too hard, and I can't find a chiropractor that wants to be responsible for using that type of force in the opposite direction?

I've had to quit baseball and drop out of college because I can't sit upright and focus being in this much pain. As much as I miss going to school and playing baseball, I just want to be pain free again and be able to feel comfortable and relaxed again, something I haven't felt in a long time. If you have any advice for me, I'm willing to do anything. Thank you.

Hello Morgan,
What I don't quite follow is whether he thrust straight down on your midback (with your head turned), or if he cracked your neck.

The upper back is a difficult area; it could be a local rib, or spinal injury, or it could be referred from your neck. Those midback muscles are supplied by the C5 nerve root; from the cervical spine.

If it affects your breathing then it's most likely a rib, especially as it's done something at the sternum as well.

It would seem to me that everyone has missed exactly where the precise injury is; and that's easy to do because this is a minefield.

My best suggesting is you try to figure exactly which movements cause the pain, and precisely where it hurts. For example, do movements of your neck provoke the pain? Where?

And of course it may have affected more than one joint, seeing your head was turned. Brute force plus ignorance has given you a dreadful injury.

Having located where the injury is, to the best of your ability, start looking for another highly skilled and experienced chiropractor in your area. Stay away from your friend!

I wish I had more to offer. Alas not.

Dr B

» Deep upper back pain after manipulation from a layperson

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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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Greetings, Dr B.

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