Mid back pain - ribs or maybe lats?

I'm a 55 year old female, quite active with sprint triathlon training. I first visited my chiropractor 5 weeks ago after pulling my hamstring whilst running. I'd felt a tightness in my lower back immediately before the pull and hoped the chiropractor could loosen it. By the time I made the appointment the hamstring was almost better and I was in 2 minds whether I should go but I thought I may as well give it a try.

I came away with a schedule of twice weekly appointments for 3 weeks and then a review. I must admit, at the time I thought this was a bit excessive since I'd only given my discomfort level 2 out of 10.
Every treatment my back was cracked. Once, my neck was cracked. After the 5th treatment, I noticed that my back and neck seemed to be stiffening up and I had pain on my right side when breathing deeply. I went out running on the morning of my 6th treatment and was feeling quite a bit of discomfort just below my shoulder blades on the right by the end of the run. That afternoon, I had my chiropractor appointment. He cracked my back again and by the time I got home I was shivery and in quite a bit of pain. My back hurt a lot at night and I had considerable trouble sleeping for 2 nights. 10 days later I am still having trouble bending, lifting our dog who weighs about 16lbs and even long walks hurt afterwards. I have a very sore spot around a rib about half way up my back and as the day goes on I get stiffer and stiffer. I am icing and occasionally using heat.

I'm too scared to go back to the chiropractor since I'm in a lot more pain than I was initially and considerably worse off financially.

Hello Diane,
You have legitimate concerns and raise a contentious issue in chiropractic: should one treat only the presenting complaint, in your case lower back and leg pain, or the full spine?

Those who belong to the first philosophy state, if you go to a doctor for appendicitis, how would you feel if you woke up to find your tonsils had also been removed? If it's not broke, don't fix it.

The second group point out that there's strong research that the overall benefits of chiropractic are greater with a full spine adjustment.

I confess to having a foot in both camps. Initially I usually treat only the presenting complaint; I would have started with your lower back and leg pain only, and later decided whether it was wise to look to other areas that weren't actually complaining, after discussing it with you, the patient. It is after all your body, and it behooves doctors to get your consent for treatment for other areas.

Pain with deep breathing is usually suggestive of a rib subluxation; was this a temporary discomfort after treatment, or is it still a lot more painful than when you first consulted him? Iatrogenic, or doctor-caused illness doesn't only pertain to Medicine.

Were you given any exercise for your lower back; that I think is really important after any injury; perhaps the lower back exercises that you will find in the navigation bar on the left at Chiropractic Help may be relevant; you will find them rather twee, being a serious athlete, but after injury one has to start again at square one.

I'm a great believer in gut feel, Diane. I would recommend you start by discussing these feelings fully with your chiropractor; if he listens and takes your complaints seriously, then work with him. If he fobs you off, then vote with your feet; refuse further treatment.

I hope this contributes.

Dr B

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Apr 05, 2017
Mid back pain after chiropractic care
by: Dr B

Hello Diane,
In fit people like you, the body has amazing healing properties, but do get into those lower back exercises, and give it a chance to heal before gung-ho.

Swimming would be a good start.

Dr B

Mar 23, 2017
by: Anonymous

Thank you Barrie. Your advice is really helpful. After 2 weeks my condition is gradually improving. I'm still sore but not as much and I only notice pain breathing after I have been breathing deeply for about 20 minutes. The chiropractors did say they would give me an appointment free of charge to look into the problem but I've decided to go for a gentler, less aggressive approach and just give it time. I find walking helps a lot and I can bike with no pain. Gentle massage helps too. I'll take a look at the exercises you recommend.
Fingers crossed things will sort themselves out and I'll be back to normal soon. Thanks again.

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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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