New pain in mid back and also top of arms at shoulders

by Cynthia Lundie
(San Pedro CA)

» New pain in mid back and also top of arms at shoulders

I am 62. I weigh 213 and I know I need to lose weight. I just got my results from the thoracic, lumbar and cervical x-rays that were done two days ago and they said there are extensive arthritic degenerative changes to all the disks throughout my back - no advanced problems beyond that at this point.

I got these x-rays done because I had new pain in my mid back right at where a bra strap would be. I've never had mid back pain before. I've had neck problems and cervical bone spurs, and 30 years ago I had lumbar pain and a laminectomy, but no lower back troubles since then.

At the same time of the new mid back pain I also had sudden pain at the top of my arms right at the shoulder but on the arm every time I would lift my arm or try to rotate them. At first I thought it was because I had done something to hurt my arm but then why would happen in both arms at the same time when I've never had this problem?

I did start a new healthier living program a month ago - starting to walk 20 minutes a day and want to increase to 45 minutes or an hour. I'm also following healthier eating diet including some of the suggestions you have on your site such as legumes, seeds, salmon, lean poultry, veggies and greens, sourdough bread (I have heartburn), hummus, avocado, etc. I love those foods so that hasn't been hard.

I also started to stretch and saw an exercise on TV where you stand against a wall, holding a T-shirt between your hands about two feet apart, your arms straight against the wall and up above your head, and then pull the t-shirt in opposite directions like a tug-a-war between your two arms. I was doing that every morning it did feel good but now I can't lift my arms or rotate them with the pain in the two pain at the top of each arm, and loss of range of motion in my arms without pain.

Again the mid-back pain right on my spine, and soreness in the muscles just to the left and right, also developed at the same time and when I turned over in bed the other night I had such a horrible crink/muscle twist in one of the muscles right there that I was in pain for three hours and couldn't move; I've never had that in my life! It was a muscle on the left side under my ribs at the bra strap level or slightly lower.

Is any of that related? Did I hurt my mid back and upper arms with the stretching exercise? My neck seems worse as well with "grating sand" sounds when I turn my head, muscle stiffness and/or pain radiating onto the back of my head, and if I sit slouched, or on a hard chair (for instance a folding chair at a meeting), or wear a new pair of flats, it can make these symptoms worse with my cervical problems.

Please help with some advice - I want to get healthier but I don't want to hurt myself doing it !

Hello Cynthia,
It's great that you've made the decision to become healthier; unfortunately obesity, pain and pills or kindred spirits.

You've made a great start on the dietary side; rather than go over the top, just decide to keep at it. Don't think of it as a diet, but rather a new way of living, and as you say you love those foods. If you have a sensitive tum, avoid all breads and rolls at supper time.

You've added in great new foods; now trying taking out the refined starches, and I guarantee you'll get below 200 pounds; white rice is top of the list of highly glycemic foods; avoid it at all costs.

It sounds to me that indeed you have strained your shoulders and back with the new t-shirt exercise; not a bad routine, mind you, but too much, too quickly I suspect. Rather do our shoulder routine that you'll find below; they're less stressful.

As far as your midback is concerned, you've probably strained a rib head or one of those degenerative arthritic joints. Remember any exercise program, or weight loss for that matter, should reduce your pain and inflammation, not increase it! Don't go like a bull at a gate because it's just not sustainable and you'll make yourself miserable.

Consider cycling and swimming rather than upping your hiking too much; you probably already have the beginnings of arthritis in the knees, most obese folk do, and you'll just give yourself knee pain.

Have a massage or two, do some of those gentler exercises and if it's not improving you'd better start looking for a local chiropractor.

I hope this contributes.

Dr B

» New pain in mid back and also top of arms at shoulders

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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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