Severe pain after "fill in" chiro adjustment

Pain under shoulder blade and at the sternum.

Pain under shoulder blade and at the sternum.

Injury May 13th - "fill-in" chiropractor made adjustment. Never met them, didn't speak more than two words to me. Applied sudden severe pressure to adjust back. Three times? Nothing cracked. That has never happened before. Then they proceeded to crack my neck, which cracked.

I realize now I really had no business going for that chiropractic treatment. I went to make an appointment for my husband; I found them through my gym and was advised in order to get promotion I had to go too. Previously worked out 3-5 times a week since Oct 2015, yoga retreat about a week before.

Instantly didn't feel right. Immediate pain under right breast felt like my rib was turned upright. Pain radiating between spine and rt shoulder. Main concern was that I could only take shallow breaths, shooting pains in right shoulder and upper back mainly rt side. Achy, stabbing.

X-rays taken 48 hrs after injury Sunday morning went to ER at 4am couldn't sleep since injury and couldn't get comfortable sitting, standing, laying. Did not see broken ribs or fracture. Dx- muscle tear

Original chiropractor made adjustment same night as injury. Called him during the day and he met me at his office. Another adjustment after ER and a few more the following week. Realized it wasn't helping so I advised I would like to stop going. He advised 3-5 massages. He paid for first one and then got weird after massage therapist wouldn't speak with him about it. I wore belt from chiropractor for about 4-6 weeks over ribs & biofreeze. Had 4? Additional 1 hr massages she would work pressure points and gave slightest temporary relief from right after injury May to July.

Made appt (June 10th) to see back/spine specialist and saw Dr. W (PA?) I brought X-rays from ER and he took additional x-rays and sent for MRI. No fractures discovered so stated if nothing comes back on MRI he was certain it was costochondritis. Advised it'll take 8-12 weeks and I could start working out again. Sent me to Athletico. He also referred me to pain specialist, Dr. F. Also prescribed 6 day steroid, pill form - no relief from that.

I've been going to Athletico 2x a week since June 10th. They have been doing ultrasound, electrical stimulation, myofascial massage and a few exercises to strengthen lower shoulder in later couple of weeks.

June 12 saw Dr.F(pain specialist?). Dx with winging of the scapula and prescribed Gabapentin & diclofenac. Advised continue w/ Athletico.

Athletico stumped and didn't understand why still not getting better. Referred me to go to shoulder specialist, Dr. C. Got into Dr. C 08/08. He advised pain of scapula or suspected pinched nerve and injected under scapula. Advised if for any reason I do not get instant relief he's certain it's a pinched nerve in my neck. No relief- and went downhill from there.

Before injection Monday the tingling in my rt hand and numbness would come and go. Since injection it's 24/7 feels like my hand is asleep. Neck and upper back and mid back very painful and shoulder area still hurting. Feeling achy in rt side lower back. Feeling a lot more pain from cervical spine, does feel like a pinched nerve but kind of weird pain was radiating so much between spine and rt shoulder before injection.

Got appt right away to see Dr. F again 08/10. Advised on Dr. C appt. He did x-rays on cervical spine and said c5 looked compressed? Also ordered MRI of cervical spine 08/15. Dx is Brachial neuritis or radiculitis NOS. Advised he wants me to get MRI but he thinks I will need spinal injections and/or epidural?

Called to make sure previous MRI was of thoracic spine or else to include and spoke with nurse from back/spine office nurse for Dr W and Dr. F? . She went back from beginning and did chronical order. She said I should not be seeing Dr. F and to cancel appts with him. She said to go to MRI Monday morning still and immediately go to Dr. M's office in and to make sure I did not drive there myself. She said there are way too many ppl and he is a Spine Surgeon. She advised they will be able to send unread images over to him right away and he would be able to read them in his office and make sure I get a proper dx. She said given how this injury occurred by chiropractor she strongly strongly advised I see this Dr.

Dr. M advised herniated disc at c7 & t1. Had spinal injection same day with Dr. F 08/15. Had emg test with abnormal results. 2nd injection 08/29. I did seem to get some relief from injections but shooting pains are back as of yesterday. Can have 3rd injection but then need to wait 6mos after that. Advised I may need to get injections every 6 mos to a year. Follow-up with Dr. M this coming Monday, September 12th to see if I need surgery. Also have appt set for Neurologist Oct. 19th is earliest they can get me in but Dr. working on trying to get me in sooner. Dr. advised that when I had adjustment something happened where something got stretched which is inflaming all of these nerves.

Tried to make a long story short. Please advise if you have any other questions. Thanks for your time. Still unable to lift children, workout or resume daily activities/ routine. Can't wait until this nightmare is over.

I can have 3rd injection. This Thursday going for 2nd MRI of C spine this time with contrast, and MRAs of brain and neck. Also having 2nd emg test this Monday. I'm in so much pain. The shooting pain in shoulder is now back with vengeance. I am experiencing shooting pains in neck and back again and my back is in severe spasm.

What the hell is wrong with me? What did this chiropractor do to me?

Dear Lauren,
A real tale of woe.

First a question. You say that in order for your husband to get the promotion, "I had to go too." Does that mean you had to go with him for the consultation, or you also had to have a treatment? If it was the latter, then the whole situation from beginning to end smacks of a scam. If it's not broken, don't fix it.

Half of me feels for your chiropractor; we all have to take leave. Nevertheless it is his responsibility to get a locum who is both competent and ethical.

The other half has no sympathy at all; why did he hire someone who "spoke no more than two words" to you, in other words took no case history, and presumably did an equally shoddy, or non existent examination of your spine?

It would appear Lauren that you have had two injuries.

1. The heavy manipulation in the middle of your back subluxated a rib head, hence the stabbing pain in the midback, and simultaneously injured the cartilage at the costo-sternal junction; you may develop a condition known as Tietze's syndrome. Look out for a swollen lump at the breastbone. The treatment of choice for this is a gentle "anterior" rib adjustment and plenty of soft tissue work along the rib, and mobilising of the whole rib from the joints with the spine, to the attachment at the sternum. Absolutely avoid any heavy posterior to anterior midback manipulation.

2. The second injury is really more serious, and I think Dr C has probably got it right. When exactly did the numbness and tingling in your right hand begin? And precisely which fingers are affected. If you turn your head to the right, and then look up, do you get pain in the neck, and radiating down the arm? Using the search function at Chiropractic Help, find "upper limb tension test" and ask your husband to help you do the test. Is there strong tightness or pain in the right lower arm?

A C5 area injury could be radiating down to the midback area, further complicating the first injury of the rib, but is unlikely to go to your hand.

But a C7/T1 is likely to affect the pinkie and ring finger.

There's nothing wrong with you, Lauren. You've been injured by an incompetent. The real question now is how you are going to get well again. If you dare to go to a chiropractor ever again, then I would contact your local state chiropractic association, ask to speak to the chairman, and ask for his advice, and the name of a very experienced chiropractor in your area. Take all your scans and a typed report similar to what you wrote above.

Ask for an examination only, without treatment, and if you feel you've been well received, listened to, properly examined then perhaps you will feel encouraged to go for further treatment; at whose cost I've no idea. Probably yours.

The rib injury should respond and get better; the hernia in your neck will likely be more difficult; that you will find out after the next MRI; the surgeons are obviously also unsure.

You have been subjected to what is known as iatrogenic disease; doctor-caused illness, by the sound of things, though obviously I have not examined you, and this is presumptious. It is the third most common disease, but is only rarely serious like this in the chiropractic setting.

If I can be of any further assistent, you have only to reply.

Dr B

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Jan 11, 2017
by: Anonymous

I've had 3 posterier ribs put back into place Oct 4th & last Wednesday(January). December I had facet injections done two separate times. Pain management is really pushing for a nerve ablation. It's almost 8 mos now. I really thought I would be better by now but I'm still in a world of pain. I'm scared to have nerve ablation because I honestly don't want to make anything worse & don't think I can take anymore pain.

Thank you for your response. I would do anything to go back to before this injury and not go that day. This is the most painful thing I've ever had to endure and don't wish it on my worst enemy. I really hope my ribs will be able to stay in place even though they've been out for so long. I actually took what I think was my first deep breath tonight. I keep hearing cartilage or something breaking up when I'm breathing. I half wonder if it's good breaking up scar tissue or built up cartilage and then I'm half paranoid I'm going to breath too hard and pop my ribs out again.

It's crazy to me how many muscle relaxers one can take and still have so many muscle spasms. The numbness and tingling started after I started having manipulations done. I mentioned it 2-3 times that I never previously had this issue and he kept disregarding it. I'm very upset to learn that they also manipulated my records. There are things they put on there that are 100% not true. Not sure if they were just trying to collect more money from my insurance but looking back now there were several red flags.

I'm best in the morning and as the day progresses I go downhill quick. Any movement = more pain. Absolutely can't lift anything or it makes my neck and spasms very angry. I really hope I'm nearing the end of this injury so I can get back to my two small children and my life. I miss working out and I have zero social life. My life for 8 mos now has been trying to hold on with everything I have left in me in hopes I turn the corner or I can solve the root cause of all this pain. I don't know how people deal with chronic pain. I'm thankful I have my kids because otherwise I don't think I would have made it this far. I've wanted to give up and throw in the towel so many times. I will pass on what you wrote to sports injury Dr I'm working with. If you have any other input please let me know. I will do anything to have a pain-free day & I will never take waking up pain-free for granted ever again.

Dear Lauren,
Reading between the lines, things are gradually improving, whether by its own natural course, the facet blocks or the two chiropractic adjustments is hard to tell; but hold on to that.

Every medical doctor and chiropractor will in more honest moments admit to tales of woe, but the degree of the injury to your spine is most disturbing; it's a story that every chiropractor should read.

I too have hurt people, none of us haven't, but the suffering you have experienced is mind blowing.

Have you been back to your same chiropractor; is he empathetic? Does he treat you for a no charge? He too is culpable, having hired an incompetent to do a locum for him.

I'm really at loss as what to recommend; follow your own instincts, be careful, listen to your body, and try to keep active.

Keep in touch.

Dr B

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