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Thread: upper back pain - won't go away

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Location
    Madison, Wisconsin
    Posts
    311

    upper back pain - won't go away

    Hi all,

    I thought that I might have some loose hardware because of my upper back pain, but the CT scan didn't show that. I'm wondering if anyone else has had similar symptoms to mine and has found out what was wrong. I have a fusion from L3-T4 and seem to have some sharp pain around T7 or T8, but my whole upper back between my shoulder blades just hurts really badly. It mostly hurts whenever I extend my arms to do something, such as reaching in the fridge, opening a door, switching laundry, putting up my hair, etc. Sometimes it feels like my muscles are ripping.

    I should say I had a baby 3 months ago and I know the lifting and demands on my body probably have a lot to do with it. I'm going to try lidocaine patches as well.

    I haven't had an MRI, but am worried that it might be something to do with a disc, nerve?? Is it possible for damaged nerves in my upper back to regenerate after 2 1/2 years post-op?

    Any clues or advice will be greatly appreciated!
    Best wishes for a Happy New Year my fellow scolis,
    Anya
    "You must be the change you want to see in the world."

    Previously 55 degree thoracolumbar curve
    Surgery June 5, 2007 - Dr. Clifford Tribus, University of Wisconsin Hospital
    19 degrees post-op!

    http://abhbarry.blogspot.com

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Nov 2003
    Location
    PA
    Posts
    360
    Hi,

    I've had horrible pain to the left of my right shoulder blade for 9 years. I saw an orthopedic surgeon that my spine surgeon had recommended and he said I had scapular tendonitis. He gave me a cortisone shot and the pain was gone within a few hours. I'm currently in physical therapy for it and it has helped a lot. It could be something like this for you. I also had that feeling that my muscles were being ripped. Is that area sore to the touch and swollen?

    I hope you are feeling better soon.

    Shell
    Chemist, 30

    1998- 18 degrees
    2003- 33 degrees
    2005- 37 degrees
    2006- 44 degrees
    May 2007- 47 degrees
    December 2007 - 50 degrees X-ray

    Surgery May 27, 2008
    Fused T1 to L2
    Curve corrected to 15 degrees X-ray

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Location
    Northern California
    Posts
    6,794
    Hi...

    I'm also fused T4-L3, and have had left sided scapular pain since my surgery 16+ years ago. It was almost constant for the first 3-4 years post-op, and then became more infrequent, but has never completely disappeared. I also have more generalized pain across my entire upper back from time-to-time. I had no upper back pain prior to my surgery.

    Shell, I'd love to know the specific location of the steroid injection that worked.

    Regards,
    Linda

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Location
    Madison, Wisconsin
    Posts
    311
    Linda,
    What do you do for the pain? I'm starting Lidocaine patches tomorrow, but am not thrilled about it, especially since I'm nursing. Shell - yes, I would like to hear more about the steroid shots- how frequently do you get them and what is the location that worked? How did they diagnose it?

    The pain is on both sides of my spine, but also seems to be stemming from the spine around T7/T8 - I can feel my muscles hurt every time I move my arms. . . hmm. Searching for answers. I'm going to PT, acupuncture, and massage therapy next week.

    Thanks,
    Anya
    "You must be the change you want to see in the world."

    Previously 55 degree thoracolumbar curve
    Surgery June 5, 2007 - Dr. Clifford Tribus, University of Wisconsin Hospital
    19 degrees post-op!

    http://abhbarry.blogspot.com

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Location
    Madison, Wisconsin
    Posts
    311
    Shell,
    I forgot to mention that yes, the whole area of my upper back is very sore to the touch. It has been since surgery though.
    "You must be the change you want to see in the world."

    Previously 55 degree thoracolumbar curve
    Surgery June 5, 2007 - Dr. Clifford Tribus, University of Wisconsin Hospital
    19 degrees post-op!

    http://abhbarry.blogspot.com

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Location
    Ottawa, Canada
    Posts
    101
    Hi Anya,

    I had my surgery (T5 to L2) nearly 20 years ago now, and I remember having quite a bit of upper back pain at different points, everything from general achiness to an intense pin pricking feeling every once in a while (usually if I put on a heavy backpack). I always chalked it up to the fact that I kept trying new things that used new muscles (like playing field hockey, Ultimate frisbee and backpacking through Europe). Lifting a new baby would definitely put stress on muscles you may not have used before and/or right after surgery. Most of my problems went away as the years went by.

    I did have a big problem with my upper back a few years ago - muscle pain like you describe in my upper thoracic area. I went to a physiotherapist for it and the exercises she gave me were moderately helpful. More helpful though, was getting a mattress pad and a better pillow (I experimented with different thicknesses and finally found one that worked) and also finding a better position for my computer keyboard.

    I'd just keep experimenting with different changes, if I were you, now that you know it's not loose hardware. Also, keep in mind that muscles start to atrophy while you're recovering from surgery and you may need to find ways to build them up again to deal with the demands of the new baby.

    Hope you find the solution to this pain!
    - 39 years old
    - At age 14, curve progressed from 45 degrees to 62 degrees in two months.
    - Surgery in 1990 at the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) with Dr. Letts. Fused T5 to L2. Corrected to about 30 degrees.
    - Harrington rod
    - Herniated disc - L5/S1 - January 2008. Summer 2009 - close to making a full recovery.
    - New mommy as of February 2011
    - Second child - September 2013
    - Staying relatively painfree through physio exercises!

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Location
    Northern California
    Posts
    6,794
    Anya...

    I take a prescription NSAID daily, and put up with the additional pain when it hits.

    I think the fact that your upper back is painful to the touch is meaningful. Has Dr. Tribus suggested removal of some or all of the implants?

    --Linda

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Dec 2009
    Posts
    47
    I always had of trouble and pain after having my babies. I think caring for them and lifting them even when they are very little can take it's toll.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Nov 2003
    Location
    PA
    Posts
    360
    Hi Anya and Linda,

    http://www.2-boots.com/blog/MuscleTe.../0427back2.jpg

    My injection site was slightly below the "a" in scapula (in the link above) and it was slightly underneath the shoulder blade. The doctor had asked me if I felt the need to rotate my shoulder so it would pop or crack even though this action was painful. I said yes and he said that is the main way of telling if scapular tendonitis is present. I only received one injection about 6 weeks ago. I can go back whenever the pain comes back to receive another one. He said he would consider surgery if the pain comes back after the second shot. I don't need another shot as of now.

    I had found a video on this a few weeks ago but now I can't find it. The surgeon showed this surgery on a scoliosis patient. He said that it is really common in people with thoracic curves and rib humps.

    I hope the pain goes away for you both.

    Shell
    Chemist, 30

    1998- 18 degrees
    2003- 33 degrees
    2005- 37 degrees
    2006- 44 degrees
    May 2007- 47 degrees
    December 2007 - 50 degrees X-ray

    Surgery May 27, 2008
    Fused T1 to L2
    Curve corrected to 15 degrees X-ray

  10. #10
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Location
    Central NJ
    Posts
    1,956
    Shell,

    I'm glad you got some relief. I also have problems in this area from time to time. Usually not horrible but once in a while it's brutal--usually when I'm stressed. Have you noticed any relation of stress to your pain?
    __________________________________________
    Debbe - 50 yrs old

    Milwalkee Brace 1976 - 79
    Told by Dr. my curve would never progress

    Surgery 10/15/08 in NYC by Dr. Michael Neuwirth
    Pre-Surgury Thorasic: 66 degrees
    Pre-Surgery Lumbar: 66 degrees

    Post-Surgery Thorasic: 34 degrees
    Post-Surgery Lumbar: 22 degrees

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Nov 2003
    Location
    PA
    Posts
    360
    Hi Debbe,

    No, I have not noticed that it is related to stress. The pain increases when I carry my purse for more than 10 minutes. It's also worse when I walk a lot or if I'm running around at work. To me, it seems to be activity related.

    I hope yours goes away. That pain is horrible.

    Shell
    Chemist, 30

    1998- 18 degrees
    2003- 33 degrees
    2005- 37 degrees
    2006- 44 degrees
    May 2007- 47 degrees
    December 2007 - 50 degrees X-ray

    Surgery May 27, 2008
    Fused T1 to L2
    Curve corrected to 15 degrees X-ray

  12. #12
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Location
    Central NJ
    Posts
    1,956
    Quote Originally Posted by briarrose View Post
    Hi Debbe,

    No, I have not noticed that it is related to stress. The pain increases when I carry my purse for more than 10 minutes. It's also worse when I walk a lot or if I'm running around at work. To me, it seems to be activity related.

    I hope yours goes away. That pain is horrible.

    Shell
    Shell,
    walking and purses don't usually bother me, but BRAS do. ACK. I've taken to usually just wearing one of those camisoles with the shelf bra.
    __________________________________________
    Debbe - 50 yrs old

    Milwalkee Brace 1976 - 79
    Told by Dr. my curve would never progress

    Surgery 10/15/08 in NYC by Dr. Michael Neuwirth
    Pre-Surgury Thorasic: 66 degrees
    Pre-Surgery Lumbar: 66 degrees

    Post-Surgery Thorasic: 34 degrees
    Post-Surgery Lumbar: 22 degrees

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Location
    Indianapolis, IN
    Posts
    416

    Wink

    I've got the upper back pain too ;-(
    It actually started getting worse about 1 1/2 yrs post fusion but I have a sagittal imbalance which causes me to crane my neck forward and up and causes strain on those muscles. I get relief with heat wraps, and Percocet once/day. It definitely is worse on my more active days and feels like yours, muscles ripping and burning. Located in the scapular region. The Thermocare heat patches are nice too but can be expensive to use every day.
    May 2008 Fusion T4 - S1, Pre-op Curves T45, L70 (age 48). Unsuccessful surgery.

    March 18, 2010 (age 50). Revision with L3 Osteotomy, Replacement of hardware T11 - S1 , addition of bilateral pelvic fixation. Correction of sagittal imbalance and kyphosis.

    January 24, 2012 (age 52) Revision to repair pseudoarthrosis and 2 broken rods at L3/L4.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Posts
    3,745
    i have not had surgery..yet...but when/if i do, they want to ignore the upper back ...40 degree curve...it is treated with botox shots...& just fuse the lumbar curve...61 degrees...

    the botox shots keep the muscles from spasming (splg?) or bunching up...i get them every 3-4 months...helps immensely...works better than steroids for me...am wondering if it could help any of you guys, even with the surgry/rods??

    jess

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    Posts
    237
    I have pretty much constant upper back discomfort and pain, which in my case gets much worse the longer I sit. I am almost 11 months from surgery and really this is my main issue other than still needing a cane to walk any distance. I never had upper back pain before either. I am still on painkillers as a result of it never going away. I have started doing pilates on the reformer and I hope that it will eventually help the pain and discomfort.
    avis
    1987 Lumbar Laminectomy (forget which levels)
    2005 A/P fusion, L2 - L5, 2/2005
    2009 2 Posterior fusions, T6 - Pelvis, 2/10 & 2/18,
    Dr. Frank Rand, NEBH

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