Extremely Itchy Skin on Neck and Upper Back
by crbyred, Aug 27, 2006
The back of my neck and the upper back has been EXTREMELY ITCHY for 6 months now.  I do not have any obvious rash.  My skin has bumpier than normal and every so often I get a red bump here and there similar to a pimple, but that's it.  The itching is horrid at night.  I've been doing nothing but researching this online and I've tried Benadryl and Sarna to calm it, no help.  I thought maybe it was dry skin, using Ucerin daily, no help.  I thought maybe my body was sick inside with something and had my blood tested for autoimmune diseases, thyroid problems, hormonal problems like low estrogen, and even anemia - results returned normal.  I'm an athlete (cyclist, swimmer, runner) and I'm wondering if this is related to swimming outdoors or a particular pool I'm swimming in.  I've already looked at all my soaps, detergents, you name it, I've taken everything out of my life.  It gets particular bad after long runs, long bike rides, heat, and also a few days after I swim.  Could this be related to sun exposure?  Strangely, I'm not itchy anywhere else!  Just back of neck and upper back.  You should also know that I am a melanoma survior (had it removed 9 years ago, from my leg) and I am redheaded and fair skinned, but I diligently use very strong sunscreen and I cover up entirely except when I swim 2-3x/week for an hour each time and I do use plenty of sunscreen on back and neck when I swim.  I've never had itchy skin my whole life, but I am also getting more outdoor exposure these days with all the running, biking, swimming, etc. so I don't know if that's the problem.  This started on my neck and has spread to the back.  I also have a little bump on the back like it used to be a blood blister but is now just a hard bump, same color as my skin.  Itching is the worst over my shoulder blades and down either side of my spine and on the sides of my neck under my ears straight down to my shoulders.  This became especially worse after a very strange spell of what I'm assuming was burning mouth syndrome (for a week after I rode a hard 100 mile century ride my mouth felt like I had burned it with coffee for an entire week) and then immediately, that went away and this whole itchy skin problem kicked in.  Everytime I also run a running race (half marathon, etc.) it gets very bad. Could this be related to the stress I'm placing on my body?  I'm so lost.  I could use any ideas you can offer.  I've been MISERABLE with all this itchiness.
by Alan Rockoff, MDBlank, Aug 29, 2006
I don't think you have anything to worry about.  Many people have itchy upper backs--the condition is called notalgia paresthetica, and seems related to inflammation of a sensory nerve, cause unknown, significance none.  I think the itch's intensity is indeed related to the stress you're feeling that this is somehow related to sun, melanoma, etc., which is most certainly isn't.  I suggest that you continue Sarna and get yourself checked in person for diagnosis and reassurance.  All your research and thinking about the itch is just making you anxious--and making the itch worse.


Dr. Rockoff
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Member Comments (12)
by crbyred, Aug 28, 2006
More from crbyred (I posted the original message): Per my research, itchy skin with no obvious rash can be related to stress, and I cannot deny that I've been under significant stress due to personal life, but I cannot change those circumstances right now and I'm hoping I don't have to just suffer with this itchy skin forever.  Also, my neck and back skin feels very very agitated, like burning, inflamed, very sensitive to touch and ofcourse everything gets much worse if I scratch which I try to not do, but my back skin just feels painfully irritated all the time, regardless 24/7.  I also know that itchy skin can sometimes be related to B12 deficiency, so I've stepped up my vitamins and nutrition but no help.  For what its worth, I crashed on my bike 3 months ago (already had the itchy skin problem) and it got much better during the weeks I was resting with a shoulder injury post crash.  However, having said that, I have some important athletic goals for the next few years that I certainly don't want to compromise just because of itchy skin.  Is this an allergy?  Is this a skin fungal infection?  Is this sun exposure and damage?  Is this just stress?  Does anyone else have itchy skin just on the back of neck and upper back?  I'm a healthy, 33-year-old female athlete and a vegetarian.
by crbyred, Aug 29, 2006
When I first started researching my itchy skin problem, I actually came across this Notalgia Parasthetica condition and thought it might be that.  My question now is this: in reading up on Notalgia Parathetica, I understand that it is often associated with a degenerative spine condition.  Could my longer bike rides (which causes my spine to be in a certain position for many hours) and long runs (which obviously cause impact and jarring for long periods of time to the body) be triggering some kind of nerve damage issue or agrivating something else in my spine which is causing their terrible itchiness?  I just want to know if I should bring this up to my doctor when I visit them in person.  Should I have anything else checked out and tested about my back, spine, etc.?
by Heyjude0027, Sep 06, 2006
I have the same, shoulders, back (but started on just upper), neck, chest, ab, and they have been tring to figure it out for a year now, after all the test, bi-obsy's and more blood drawn today, they think it my be my Thyroid, so they are going to do test for just that.  But I know how you feel with the itching.  I itched chest so much and so hard I had 1st degree burn on it.  I almost went crazy, I was screaming and crying as I scratch myself bloody.  I just hope that I have a Thyroid disorder so we can start to treat it.  At first they said it was Allergic contact dermititis, and gave me every cream there was, but none of them helped.  Now I am on prednazone(sp?)for the rash and hydroxyzine for the itching and it is helping calm everything down until they find out what is causing it.  Have them check more into Thyroid.  I feel your pain and wish you all the best.
by MAR1967, Sep 18, 2006
I'm a 39 year old female that has had this burning, itchy painful skin on my upper arms and sometimes on my chest.  I would get only one pin head size white head and sometimes bumps.  I've been seeing a dermatologist since 2001 and have been prescribed tons of creams, tried over-the-counter creams.  I have had this problem when living in NY, now in Fl. and still have it.  Would fall asleep fine then wake up in the middleof the night in so much pain that I would cry myself to sleep.  Did find out that putting ice on it numbs the pain to get back to sleep.  I tried everything from changing soaps, detergents, foods. I did have back surgery in 2001 can't remember if I had this problem before. I have had biopsy's ,came back with nothing. I hope all some cure.
by wench, Sep 20, 2006
I suffer from the same burning, itchy skin. I get the odd white bumps, as well as the occasional pimple, which is generally scratched off very quickly. I know I am doing damamge to my skin by scratching, and unfortunately, the itching is really under the skin anyways. I do get the itch mainly at night. I have taken to sleeping with a icepack, which I move from shoulder to shoulder until I get my relief! My problem started with a vacation to the Dominican Republic. Both my mother and I were sick and developed this itch. Very early on she applied betadyne any time she had an opening and she is virtually itch free. I am still looking at possibilities, this itch could drive a person mad. As for the stress factor, I'm not sure I believe that. I wake up scratching in the middle of the night
by K808, Sep 21, 2006
I have been reading this forum for a while and have learned a lot. First it is comforting, I believe, to all of us who suffer with unknown itch to know we are out there. Chronic itch is something no one can empathize with unless you suffer from it.
   I have notice on a lot of posting the people who suffer come from various backgrounds. But some common factors I have notice for people who have no real visual signs (ie. red rash, wheeling, hives) is athletes, back injuries, and/or stressful lives.
by Snowbird66048, Sep 24, 2006
I have had itchy arms from the back of my wrists up to my shoulders and around the back of my neck for over two years now.  I have been to two dermatologists, 3 allergists, and have an appointment with a neurologist soon.  My family doctor has tried numerous things.  The only thing that has actually helped my itching is Sarna and ice cubes rubbed over the itchy spots.  It is great to know there are other people out there with a problem like mine.  I am a 66 year old female and we live in eastern Kansas near Kansas City.  We are snowbirds and go to Florida in the winter.  Any help or suggestions I can gather from this site will certainly be appreciated.
by Shurick, Sep 29, 2006
I'm a 26 yr old Male and I've started experiencing this dreadful itchiness you all have been talking about. It started out around the inside of my arms, then it crawled up to my shoulders, and now getting to my neck. Also, my eyes have been extremely dry and as a result, I itched the heck out of my eyelids. If I recall, it started occuring about 6 months ago shortly after I had severely pulled my back. I was barely able to walk for several days following the injury. Coincidentally, during that same time I had started taking propecia. I'm in good health, I work out several times a week. Like some of you, I live a very stressful life balancing work and school. I've been using Gold Bond Medicated cream and it works pretty well. The cooling sensation stops itching pretty quick. The problem is I can't be buttering up every hour.

My question is, is anyone who is experiencing this itch taking propecia? For some reason I think it may be related to it, but the more I read everyones comments it sounds like it may be a nerve issue.

Thanks a bunch.