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Squeezing pain around right rib cage
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Squeezing pain around right rib cage

I have had a squeezing sensation around my right rib cage for many, many years.  It feels like a rubber band that keeps squeezing.  The sensation is worse if my back is leaning against something, such as sitting in a car seat or an airplane, and when I'm lying in bed at night.  At times it becomes extremely uncomfortable.  I avoid leaning my back against anything as much as possible.  The squeezing is predominantly on the right side, but I have also felt ithe squeezing on the left side as well.  I have no problems with physical activity and I enjoy walking, biking, doing yard work, etc.  I have never had any problems breathing, such as feeling any shortness of breath in spite of the squeezing sensation.  In the morning I'm generally fine until I get in the car to drive to work and then because my back is against the car seat the squeezing sensation starts and stays with me for the rest of the day to varying degrees, depending on what I'm doing (sitting in a chair, walking).  I avoid pressing my back against anything as much as I possibly can.  I am in very good health otherwise.  I saw a physiatrist who tried very hard to help me for well over a year, but he could not pinpoint a specific cause or reason for the squeezing pain.  I have had numerous injections, tests such as chest x-rays, scans, I've tried different medications, etc.  Strangely, if I press my right hand against on my right rib cage it provides some relief to the squeezing sensation.  I'm in search of an answer to this mystery, as it seems I'm destined to continue to try to cope with this to the best of my ability for the rest of my life.  I'm an active 57 year old who works full time.
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It sounds like a nerve is being pinched at some point near the spine;  nerves leave the spinal column through small openings that are formed by the junction between vertebrae, and these openings will 'pinch'  the nerve if one vertebra slides forward on the other (called 'spondylolisthesis').  The openings can also be filled with disc material or with bone (called 'osteophytes') as part of the process of aging.  The nerves that exit the spine at the chest level wrap around the chest, just under each rib, so that nerve impingement can feel like something wrapping around the chest.

This type of situation cannot be cured;  it seems that one should be able to find the offending anatomical area, but in practice a solution is usually not found.  Even if the nerve is identified, there is little that can be done;  if the nerve is permanently destroyed, say with an injection of alcohol, the stump can form a neuroma that causes more pain than it did before the block.

These pains will sometimes go away over time, as the irritated nerve becomes destroyed by whatever is pinching it.  Sometimes relief is found in medications that reduce the firing of irritated nerves; meds like gabapentin, tegretol, or lyrica.  Finally, narcotics can help to some extent provided the person avoids chasing tolerance, but instead stays on a constant, low dose of narcotic, used during the worst flare-ups.
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A related discussion, extreme rob pain and nerve pain was started.
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A related discussion, nerve pain was started.
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