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Ways to Cope?
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Ways to Cope?

Hi, I am Trish.  I have pain in my left upper back, from the spine to the shoulder, as well as sometimes with involvement of the neck.  It has been with me for 20 years.  I believe the injury may have originally been caused by a fall from a horse when I was a teen, but I do not know for sure.  

20 years ago, I was going to a chiropractor, for neck pain treatments and migraines. Well, he fixed that pretty much, but at the last session, while he was prodding my upper back, something 'snapped'.  I heard the sound and felt a small bit of pain.  For three days or so, it hurt, then went away for about a year.  Needless to say, I did not return to the chiropractor.

One day, while I was exercising, I twisted at the waist, and the pain came back.  It has never really left since then. I have gone to many medical doctors, as well as an  orthopedic specialist, who all ignored the back problem and talked about my neck instead.  Most of the family doctors have done little.  I have been on naproxen, on Flexeril and that's it. Neither helped very much.

I have been to another chiropractor, who did order an x-ray.  He said something about deterioration of the spine and told me I must come for treatments for a long time.   My whole upper body had started to twist a bit, as I tensed up from the pain and he said he could fix that. Well, I did go three times weekly for about six months.  The pain was worse after the treatments, would get better, then it was time for another treatment! It did help with the bad posture and twisted upper body.

I stopped going and started exercising, mostly gentle stretching and that sort of thing. I  now use a treadmill as walking does seem to help too.

I would say that the pain is likely nowhere near as bad as some of you experience, but with such a long lasting injury I can really sympathize with the members here.

At this point, I take 500 mg aspirin or Tylenol or Aleve three to four nights a week, in order to sleep.  This is a big improvement over the early years, when nothing helped. Or should I say, when the doctors didn't seem to know what to do for me.
I often use a heat pack or a massager on my neck and back and that does help somewhat as well.

Some days are much better than others.  I gave up on finding any lasting relief a long time ago.

I wonder, though, if there is any other method/s of coping with this type of pain?

Thanks for letting me tell my story.
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Have you ever had an MRI of your spine?  You said you have upper shoulder and neck pain and migraines, and that you twisted your lower back and something snapped.  I think you're saying something snapped in your mid-to-lower back and now you have pain there as well?
It sounds like an MRI of your entire spine would help the doctors to diagnose what is causing your pain.  When the chiropractor did the x-ray did he tell you you have Degenerative Disc Disease?  I don't know a lot about the different kinds of degeneration of the spine, but I have DDD and it sounds like your pain is like mine.  It's usually somewhat diagnosable from x-rays because they can see a narowing of the space between the vertebrae, however an MRI is the only thing that really shows the discs.
As for treating it.  Physical Therapy might help.  I know you already exercise but sometimes they can show you specific exercises and add massage, TENS, ultrasonic muscle relaxation and traction to help.  I am planning on going on a rigorous PT regimen as soon as I can.  There is also acupuncture and other non-traditional therapies.  Then there's medication therapy as well, although most of us would rather not have to take medications if we can avoid it.  Sometimes it is just unavoidable, though, and the only way to deal with the pain.
I would recommend seeing a PCP and asking for an MRI and a referral to a specialist who can hopefully give you a diagnosis and a treatment plan.  They may also refer you to pain management.  
Welcome!  I'm glad you shared you're story.  All of us here know what it's like to live with pain on a daily basis and we're all working on getting better together.  I hope you'll join us on the forum and share your journey with us.
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Hi Trish,

Welcome to MedHelp's Pain Management Forum. I am glad that you found us and took the time to post. However I am very sorry to hear about your long term chronic pain. If you have been reading our threads you know that many of us can relate.

Thank you for sharing your chronic pain history. I am saddened to hear that you have given up finding any significant relief or diagnosis. If I understand your post correctly the pain seems somewhat controlled with OTC medications.

If this pain interferes with your functioning, activities and/or sleep I encourage you to search out better solutions. They are available. I think life is simple too short and precious to struggle through it with unmanaged pain. Although we make daily comprises most of us are at least able to keep our pain within tolerable levels.

You did not mention any imaging besides x-rays which are not a very detailed diagnostic tool. As suggested by Jaded I would request an MRI of your spine. This could get you an more definitive diagnosis.

I also agree that you may benefit from the treatment of a good physical therapist. You may also benefit from prescription medications....even if they are not opiates. A prescription dose of a NSAID may offer you better pain control. If you have DDD as suggested by a chiropractor it's important to keep the inflammatory process to a minimum to decrease degenerative changes. If you have nerve involvement there are medications that will target nerve pain.  

In my opinion a D.O. (Doctor of Osteopathy) may also be a good choice. Many perform what is called OMT (osteopathic manipulation therapy) which is similar to chiropractor adjustments only safer and much more gentle. If not for the care of my D.O. I doubt I would not function at all.

I am so glad that you have shared your story with us and I will look forward to your participation in our forum. Please let us know how you are doing.

Take Care,
~Tuck
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Avatar_m_tn
hey Trish, What the chiro said is completely suspect. As mentioned already, the xrays are not very helpful at all. Deterioration of your spine is not a diagnosis that can be made with an xray - it would be like someone saying you have a broken bone in your ankle, after they shined a flashlight in your ear....LOL

As mentioned, an MRI is what is needed at this point.Poor posture and a twisted body may result from poor muscle tone, so you should definitely look into conditioning your spinal erectae muscles, your rhomboids, trapezius, and latissimus dorsi. If these muscles are not conditioned well (which is very common) you may be suffering from muscle spasms that could conceivably last months before letting lose, only to once again spasm as soon as they become fatigued. I have had spasms that lasted 3 months or longer in my neck, and that did not let loose with daily massages, heat, TENS therapy, sauna and hottub stimulation, and with pain killers as well.....so I can understand how frustrating it can be...and how something like a muscle spasm can actually cause more daily chronic pain than broken bones, torn ligaments, and torn scar tissue.....just pointing out the possibilities....

Naproxen is just aleve, which does/doesnt work for some people, doesnt work for me at all. Flexeril is a muscle relaxant, which just makes me go to sleep....and may or may not help a spasm actually release....with an upper back spasm, it is totally possible that a poorly conditioned set of tiny muscles may be taxed just holding your skeleton upright, and this could cause them to fill with lactic acid, and then spasm as a result. You said you get relief from exercise, and this may be because you are increasing your heart rate, which in turn flushes out the lactic acid in the upper back muscles.....allowing them to stop spasming....at least until they are taxed again.....I have known many people who incorporated a few basic exercises into their daily routine (including myself) that relieves a MAJOR portion of chronic pain which had previously reduced their happiness and well being, and that had not been treated properly by an army of different doctors that just could not figure out how simple and effective the exercise would be.......

If you have any questions, just let me know and I can help explain further or point you to the resources that can help
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Thanks very much for your replies.  I am going to talk to the family doctor when I go in again, and see if he would be wiling to order the MRI.  I am out of town at the moment visiting family and friends for the long weekend. Have a good holiday everyone!
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