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Young guy with chronic upper back pain
Old 09-09-2013, 09:06 AM   #1
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Young guy with chronic upper back pain

I'm an early 30s, generally healthy white male. A while ago I posted about this chronic sciatica pain I've had the last few years. In 2013, the sciatic pain hasn't gone away, but it seems to be more manageable. However, the upper back pain (in between the shoulder blades) that started intermittently 2 years ago (about a year after the sciatic pain started) has gotten worse and is a problem almost every day. Despite a lot of testing and imaging, the doctors haven't found any diagnosis that would explain these problems.

The pain is sometimes an ache, sometimes sharper. It can go on all day. I haven't found any painkillers that are particularly effective against it. The exact location varies but generally it is along the sides of my spine in between my shoulder blades. Sometimes it feels a little further out, sometimes closer in to the center of my spine. The pain seems to be worst when sitting still for long periods especially on the computer. I work at an office on a computer all day. I use an adjustable height desk to alternate sitting/standing and Iíve tried a variety of ergonomic keyboards along with taking short breaks throughout the day but no changes. Usually the pain is lowest or non-existent when I'm active. I can lift weights, do housework, etc. without any problems.

Any thoughts on how to tackle this?

Here's a diagram of where the pain typically is:

http://i.imgur.com/ppQ6maw.jpg
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Old 09-09-2013, 09:12 AM   #2
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Doctors haven't mentioned anything about your thoracic spine mobility or anything?

Sounds pretty typical of "computer guy syndrome" where you sit at a computer too long (like all office workers) and end up in a hunched-over, shoulders-forward, head-forward sort of posture.

Getting a foam roller and doing thoracic extensions, and stretching the hell out of your lats and pecs can help take the stress off your upper back.

Good luck.
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Old 09-09-2013, 10:46 AM   #3
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I would suggest a couple of things.

1. If you're sitting in an upright or forward hunched posture at work, try leaning back a little instead (the "reclined sitting" posture in this link.

2. Try the "Miracle Ball" method, which encourages relaxation of your muscles.
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Old 09-09-2013, 10:56 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by bo_knows View Post

Sounds pretty typical of "computer guy syndrome" where you sit at a computer too long (like all office workers) and end up in a hunched-over, shoulders-forward, head-forward sort of posture.
Agreed. I had the same kind of pain until last year when I changed my desk chair to improve my posture and decided to spend less time sitting in front of the computer.
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Old 09-09-2013, 11:23 AM   #5
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I agree with everything posted and would add yoga and diet. What worked for me was less time sitting, as easy glide mouse, stretching muscles in the opposite direction when off the computer (back roller, yoga back bend poses), the Miracle balls (they really worked for me, so did other types of small massage balls and massage tools), smaller foam rollers to stretch out muscles like a rolling pin and a more paleo diet high in fruit and veggies to get lots of minerals that aid in muscle relaxation.
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Old 09-09-2013, 11:33 AM   #6
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I have a stuctural back issue (hypermobile low back) and have been in pain for 30 years, so I know your misery.
For my problem I get the most relief from daily body work with a Ma Roller -
The technique I use is a myofacial release by starting at the top of the spine and slowly working down, then repeating on either side. Lie on the roller until you feel the muscle release, then roll slightly and repeat. In your case I would work the entire shoulder area. It takes 1-2 hours for a complete session. Very relaxing, although you should expect to be sore for the first few weeks. Go slow at first.
Good luck.
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Old 09-09-2013, 11:34 AM   #7
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Changing to a bed pillow of different height helped me. I think it let those muscles relax more at night.
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Old 09-09-2013, 11:39 AM   #8
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Back Pain location can fool you. I had tinglinng toes and a painful butt. So, I was really surprised to learn that I needed a spinal fusion between my 4th and 5th vetabrea. What's my point?

Back pain can come from a number of causes and show itself in other parts of the body. How did I find my problem? My Doc ordered a MRI.

Now, you're a yound guy, I'm not. You have a pain problem different than mine. So, I'd start with my doc, have her/him order whatever tests, then if nothing happens, try a well respected pain clinic.

Everyone here will give you good advice.......but unless I would have had the MRI, I wouldn't have found the problem. And, if I hadn't had the surgery and one of my vertabrea ruptured (could have happened in about a year), I would have been permanently paralyzed from the waist down.

We've really moved ahead in medicine. I feel really lucky that I had a great Doc that didn't tell me I was just a pre-diabetic with tingling toes to save a couple of bucks. Good Luck to you.....listen to everyone and then invest in the right solution for you!
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Old 09-09-2013, 11:47 AM   #9
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My sympathies! Back pain is so awful. My ex had terrible, disabling back problems, but like you, the doctors could not find a reason for them.

The only thing that helped him was a good chiropractor (not all chiropractors helped). And that was just temporary in his case.
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Old 09-09-2013, 12:25 PM   #10
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Soupcan,

I am suspicious of nerve pain. I had similar symptons for years and progressive pain and much much worse over years and ended up getting a Neck Fusion in 2009. I had herniated discs in C5, C6 & C7.

If possible get a good neurosurgeon and MRI's, etc.

I was crippled - In your case - I do hope I am wrong partner......

Good news - I am doing great after the surgery. But I went thru years of pain and hell. I am now scared of any thing to cause spinal issues - as all or most of mine resulted from when I was young in the oilfield doing stupid stuff over 40 year ago....

All the best,
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Old 09-09-2013, 12:49 PM   #11
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My sympathies! Back pain is so awful. My ex had terrible, disabling back problems, but like you, the doctors could not find a reason for them.

The only thing that helped him was a good chiropractor (not all chiropractors helped). And that was just temporary in his case.
This. You owe it to yourself to find a good Chiropractor. Don't let the doctors cut into you or fuse you or give you a lifetime of drugs until you search one out. Also, don't just take a few adjustments until the pain goes away then quit.
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Old 09-09-2013, 02:50 PM   #12
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The OP mentioned that he has been to a doc for exam and images, so I assume he was cleared of any specific mechanical cause.
Since his pain is both upper and lower body I will bet my bottom bitcoin that his back fascia is bowstring tight. Like a cable it is pulling the sacrum towards the shoulder blades causing the pain.
The idea behind myofascial release is direct intervention to stretch and lengthen the fascia, thus releasing the tension. For the sciatica I would also work the hip girdle, buttocks, iliotibial band and hamstrings. There is a learning curve figuring out where to tread lightly and where to bear down. I always follow with a stretching session for best results.
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Old 09-10-2013, 11:03 AM   #13
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I've had X-rays, MRIs, EMGs, a CT, lots of blood work, a skin nerve biopsy, etc.The docs have noted small things that should not be causing this much pain - a little joint inflammation, a little scoliosis, a little winging scapula. I've been to a couple chiropractors but haven't found one that works for me. I've tried some of the sufgestions here but will look into the others.
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Old 09-10-2013, 11:26 AM   #14
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soupcxan,

I recommend a book that might be able to give you some ideas and techniques for help/relief. It has certainly helped me.

The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook: Your Self-Treatment Guide for Pain Relief: Clair Davies NCTMB, Amber Davies CMTPT LMT, David G. Simons MD: 9781608824946: Amazon.com: Books

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Old 09-10-2013, 11:47 AM   #15
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I've been to a couple chiropractors but haven't found one that works for me.
It's hard to find a good chiropractor, I know.

My ex found a great chiropractor when we were living in College Station (TX), by asking around and finally finding out which chiropractor was used by the Texas A&M football team. He made an appointment with the same one, and that chiropractor was absolutely amazing for him. He went to him regularly for years.

Chiropractors do absolutely nothing for me, but then I do not have back trouble. I used to think they were quacks until I saw how much my ex benefited from going to one regularly.
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Old 09-10-2013, 12:05 PM   #16
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soupcxan,

I recommend a book that might be able to give you some ideas and techniques for help/relief. It has certainly helped me.

The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook: Your Self-Treatment Guide for Pain Relief: Clair Davies NCTMB, Amber Davies CMTPT LMT, David G. Simons MD: 9781608824946: Amazon.com: Books

omni
This book helped me as well. So did Back Care Basics by Mary Pullig Schatz. She is an MD as well as a yoga teacher.
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Old 09-10-2013, 12:13 PM   #17
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You might consider Active Release Techniques: A.R.T. , which I only just read about in Tim Ferris' exercise book (4 hour body)k. He does say to find a practioner that was around before the book came out.
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Old 09-10-2013, 12:31 PM   #18
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I am wondering if this and your earlier lower back pain my be caused by an abdominal or thoracic aortic aneurysm.
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Old 09-10-2013, 06:52 PM   #19
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I had a similar pain about 5 yrs ago. I went to a physical therapist. She tried a couple of things. What worked for me was neck traction. I would spend about 20 minutes in her contraption that pulled on my neck. She also gave me stretch band and showed me how I could get the same traction effect at home. I would do it at home another 2x between weekly appts with the PT. Once I was in traction the pain disappeared immediately. After 3-4 weeks of this the pain went away permanently.

My theory is that there was some sort of positive feedback thing going on. Without the traction my body was probably reacting to a the pain in a way that just increased or continued the pain. The traction provided relief and "taught" my body that there was another way to react. Eventually the "good way" kicked in.
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Old 09-10-2013, 10:13 PM   #20
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As martyp mentions, cervical traction can be a miracle. I used to have to set a timer during my sessions, as I regularly went to sleep.

There are other great suggestions too.

One thing I was taught is if you have cervical disk herniations or bulges, manipulation therapy may not be your best option.

If you have numbness, please contact a medical professional.

Best wishes,

MRG
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