Two years ago I had an horse riding accident where I strained (or sprained?) ligaments in my neck, cracked ribs, bruised (or collapsed? I can't remember exactly.) lungs, and just generally through my whole upper back out of whack.
For two years I have had a real shortness of breath all the time, in any position. There is no phases where now I can breath, now I can't; I just can't. Unless I have someone light walk on my back or if I bend backwards over a couch or if I kind of jerk my right shoulder up and my left shoulder down or vice versa and really pop something in my ribcage, or it feels like my ribcage, or twist hard in my chair sometimes I get a couple breaths relief but that's it.
I can't get a full breath so I've found myself unconsciously holding my breath so that when I do breath it's a deep breath, or forcing myself to sneeze or yawn to reflexively take a deep breath.Sometimes when I hold on to something and keep my spine really straight and take a hard fast breath I can get a full one. At the "peak" of the breath, it feels like something is constraining my lungs like a cage or something and it hurts.
I've been to chiropractors, doctors and they've taken xrays and hooked me up to electric muscle therapy things and they say everything is fine. One doctor even told me that it was all in my head and to see a psychiatrist, that I had an anxiety disorder. My blood oxygen level is fine, but I just always FEEL like I don't have enough breath. Another doctor told me it's because I smoke, but I've had this problem long before I started smoking so I don't see how this is it.
Your description suggests that expansion of the rib cage is limited, either by pain or by the anticipation of pain. This may not be a problem with your lungs, but rather with the chest wall or bony thorax. It may be caused by nerve compression of one or more of the intercostals nerves that run along your ribs or compression of nerves as they emerge from your spine. Another possibility would be stimulation of pain fibers, in the chest wall, due to instability of either bones or cartilage.
The first task then is to determine the source of the pain. An anesthesiologist who specializes in control of pain would be the ideal person to make this determination and then find ways to block the activation of the responsible pain fibers; initially a temporary block and then a permanent blockade. Working with an anesthesiologist pain specialist, skilled in the use of acupuncture, might also provide relief.
Ideally, before proceeding with any permanent nerve block once the anatomical source of pain is identified, you would consult with a physiatrist to determine if a combination of physical exercises of the chest with techniques to enable you to "work through" the pain might obviate the need for nerve blocks.
Anxiety could certainly compound the pain and your response to it, but anxiety is unlikely to be the root cause of your pain.
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