upper back pain over 9 months - mri clear, symptoms in fingers and toes

Hi just wondering if someone could give me a bit of advice. My husband injured his back in February doing a forward roll. Initially not much pain just a dull ache - fast forward almost 9 months and he is suffering a lot of pain day and night. He has attended physio and chiropracters to no avail and having gone privately for a MRI in June everything has come back clear leading gp etc to think it is just a muscular problem. Should a muscle problem not have cleared up in 9 months??? having tried tramadol etc he is now on lyrica and is suffering tremendous pain in the fingers of his left hand and also some numbness in his feet??? Does anyone suffer from these symptoms? Would a trapped nerve not have showed up in a MRI??? We are now at our wits end as he has gone from being a very active 42 year old (Cycled 50 mile a week) to trying to push in his days work so that he can get home and lie down all evening.

When the pain is at its worse he feels as if he has the flu (unsteady heavy legs etc). We are privately going to see a spinal surgeon/orthopaedic consultant this week so hopefully he will be able to advise.

How could something so simple cause such pain 9 months later??? any advice?? (he is a self employed lorry driver and is seriously contemplating giving up as every day is a struggle)

27 Replies

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  • Suffering from back pain myself I don't know how your husband is able to drive a lorry I He must be feeling soooo frustrated! Tramadol did nothing for me, but is considered an excellent painkiller. We are all different though. ....To be honest, the sooner he sees the consultant the better. I do hope the results of that consultation will be helpful and you both can get back to your normal life :)

  • thanks Louisiana... think its these symptoms with his hands etc that are worrying him the most as he knows he could prob find something trial and error to deal with the pain. He is talking about quitting work since july but not sure whether the rest will help or whether work is making everything worse. Chiropracter says 90% of back sufferers is all lower back whereas his is upper. Not sure what the future holds but just hoping and praying someone can firstly diagnose whats wrong with him and then come up with a remedy!!! worrying time!!

  • Do let us know how he gets on with consultant. had the most excruciating pains in my buttocks and top of legs and assumed it was muscular, but turned out I have wedge fractures in my spine due to osteoporosis. But, I didn't have much pain in my spine, which is weird...the pain is all around, so I can see why your husband is confused...I certainly was and still am ...I'll be looking out for your next post :)

  • thanks. will keep in touch. Hate it when people dont follow up on posts and let us know whats happening.!!

  • Pain in another part from where the injury occurred is called referre pain. With such a network of nerves the pain may be felt almost anywhere. If the point of injury is not knowwn it can often be difficult to identify. With this affecting arms it might well be a trapped nerve. Very painful.

    Good Lucj and hope it gets sorted.

    Pat x

  • Thanks pat. It has gone on for a long time and suffering from pain 24-7 isnt easy. His faith has kept him going I think. We are waiting since August for an appt with pain clinic!!! God bless the NHS.

  • Excellent that you have an appt with pain clinic - any ideas when? I am their number one advocate! Hopefully they will sort out some relief but it is always more than take this med or that tablet. They understand better than anyone apart from the patent.

    My David has suffered chronic pain or 30 yrs and like anyone will tell you - i neve goes away - you learn to manage it and try to stop it ruling your lives.

    And you can always come here for a rant!

    Pat x

  • thanks Pat. No word from pain clinic - waiting since August!!! Will see what specialist says tomorrow and mite even go private if need to wait much longer. Cant imagine what 30 years of chronic pain would be like... we have had 10 months and the effect on our marriage and family life has been difficult. Think if he was only dealing with the pain he could perhaps cope better - its the numbness in fingers, toes etc and the flu like symptoms which are worrying him. The fatigue also.... has lost his enthusiasm for doing anything!!!! hands not working!!!

  • I never meant to compare your situation with ours cos we are all so different. It was a sort of odd way to cheer you up!

    The depression is welded to chronic pain in a way only those who suffer will understand. As his wife yoou will be in similar position o so ,any other spises and families. Never be alone - always here and have ears ready and broad shoulders.

    Chase u up pain clinic. Sometimes they can be incredibly busy as GPs send more and more referrals.

    Yes go private if you can. Of course you can pay for a consiltation and follow up on NHS. That way you won't need to win the Lottery!

    It is hard for us living with someone suffering and there are groups who can help.

    <essage me if you want a chat anytime

    {at xx

  • How many of these does your husband suffer

    CRPS Symptoms - Description:

    FOUR Main Symptoms/Criteria for a diagnosis of CRPS:

    •Chronic burning pain - includes allodynia; extreme sensitivity to touch, sound, vibration, wind, and temperature.

    •Inflammation - this can affect the appearance of the skin; bruising, mottling, shiny appearance, blotchy or pale appearance, and tiny red dots are some examples.

    •Spasms - in blood vessels and muscles of the extremities, called vasoconstriction,

    •Insomnia/Emotional Disturbance - (including limbic system changes such as short-term memory problems, concentration difficulties, and irritability).

    Not all four symptoms are required for a diagnosis but most patients do have at least three out of the four at any one time. There are a great many additional symptoms that can occur but not all patients will have all symptoms. Some of the symptoms may even be transient depending on the Stage the patient is in; the time of day, weather, noise level, current medications, whether or not the patient was treated with ice or hot/cold contrast therapy, etc. What makes this disease even more difficult for Doctors to diagnose and treat is that patients can present with different symptoms at different times, even from one appointment to the next.

    ADDITIONAL SYMPTOMS

    There are many additional symptoms that can be part of CRPS besides the four main ones. These include but are not limited to;

    - changes in skin temperature (warmer or cooler compared to the healthy/opposite limb).

    - changes in skin color (skin may appear red, dusky, covered with red dots, cyanotic, blotchy, or pale).

    - hypersensitivity to touch, sound, vibration, wind, noise, temperature, barometric pressure changes, water temperature, etc.

    - irritability.

    - depression, fatigue, and/or insomnia.

    - changes in hair/nail growth (nails can become brittle, cracked, or grooved - increased/decreased hair/nail growth).

    - skin can become shiny, changes in sweating patterns - increase/decreases.

    - bone and muscle loss/changes, atrophy/weakness.

    - swelling and stiffness in effected joints.

    - throbbing, crushing, tingling, shooting, aching, stabbing, burning pain in the effected area.

    - tremors (shakes).

    - problems moving the effected extremity/body part.

    - migraines/cluster headaches.

    These symptoms can come and go and alternate over time, changing from month to month and year to year depending what stage the patient is in, what treatment they are on, what medications they are using, how successful these treatments are, how the disease is progressing, and/or what other disease(s) might be introduced along the way. One of the many problems for Doctors in treating this disease is that many patients present differently and the symptoms can vary not only with the stage the patient is in but even the time of day the patient sees the Doctor!

    To begin to understand how painful this condition is please watch the video and try the experiment. youtube.com/watch?feature=s...

  • thanks for this, really well put across

  • would really love to hear other peoples experiences - anyone suffer from similar symptoms to my husband?? diagnoses??

  • Hi Flirty, sorry to hear about hubby's upper back pain. In my experience it is totally possible for joint/muscular problems to keep on keeping on.... Also, a joint or rib irritated can cause great pain and doesn't resolve unless treated properly. He might even have thoracic outlet syndrome as this can affect the hands. It's good news the MRi was clear. He just needs to find a proper physio who actually knows what to do. I would suggest you look for a Sarah key trained physio who can use the heel of their foot to release the joint/rib affected in the upper back and restore mobility which should stop the pain. Go to sarahkey.com and if there isn't a list then fire off a quick email to them to find the closest one to you. When you find the physio be sure to mention you want the foot treatment as this is the best tool for stubborn problems. Ribs need strength to mobilise.. If you are lucky enough to be in Northern Ireland or london there are some brilliant SK physios who will def sort him out or I'd eat my hat! Best wishes.

  • thanks for response. We are in Northern Ireland and he has been attending NHS physio and also chiropracter to no avail!!! Will look up sarah key for local physios. Not sure what next step should be as we are blaming his symptoms on a stupid forward roll!!!! hard to believe it could cause all these problems!!!! or has it triggered something else??? Really pinning a lot of hope on this orthopaedic consultant tomorrow.....

  • You are in luck! If you can go see Julie mcCammon at back on track physio in Dungannon. She will sort him out. Best wishes

  • have written how he got on with consultant further down in posts. would appreciate any further advice. new symptom difficulty swallowing, clearing throat. Side effect of tablets, anxiety or worsening symptoms.

  • Hello there, has he had blood tests etc to rule out any systemic condition? If so, is it possible that around the time it happened he was under a lot of stress? It sounds incredible but stress can cause the most unbelievable amount of pain anywhere in the body. by tackling the source of the stress and finding an outlet for it the pain very often goes. When pain becomes chronic it's important to look beyond just the physical factors. Stress is a huge contributory factor. Good luck.

  • Yes he has had blood tests and our GPs have been more than good trying to reassure him that it is a temporary problem which will go away in time but not really sure as to what his problem is!!!!! the worrying thing is why is it getting worse????? I think his problem now is the stress of not knowing what the future holds but he was under no stress when it happened.

  • have written how he got on at consultants apt on down in posts. would be grateful for your advice. Gp increased his lyrica to 75mg - having difficulty clearing throat, swallowing... is this a side effect??

  • surprisingly mris dont always show up the causes of pain , and the worst part is whilst the damage is starting to happening, which can take months to show up on a scan, apparently.

    Good luck with appt, but write everything down in a list before going to hosp/clinic. Even the most sane folk can get flustered when finally getting into the chair in outpatients.

    Have you tried chiropracter? (I found it better than physio)

  • Thanks for the advice..... going to sit down tonight and compose several questions and just hope and pray this orthopaedic consultant/spinal surgeon can diagnose his condition or at least point us in the direction of someone who can!!!

  • Thanks everyone for taking the time to reply to my ramblings!!!! I will let you know how things go with the orthopaedic consultant/spinal surgeon. People say not to build our hopes up but since we have waited so long to see someone who specialised in backs, its hard not to......... Keep praying!!!

  • Muscular problems can last for years because they become habit forming.

    This is why there is a need for yoga and Alexander Teachers.

  • sorry for the delay in getting back re hubbys appointment. Well the consultant checked his back, mentioned the fact that he has a very flat upper back which he was obviously born with but has possibly triggered something in this. He said back pain was very often part of the aging process and checked MRI findings. Problem being he said because nothing showing up therefore as a surgeon there was nothing he could fix. We mentioned the sore fingers and hands and he put that down to muscle spasms??? Anyone have anything similar??? We mentioned if it were possible to bruise/stretch the spinal cord itself and he said it was and it prob wouldnt show up on MRI (no sign of cord compression thankfully) and if it were bruised it could take up to 18 months to heal.... He recommended pain clinic so thankful that one of the top men in Northern Ireland had said "its not going to cripple you" we came away thinking well at least there is nothing degenerative going on. I then rang our local nhs pain clinic thinking surely an urgent appt would be through by now (9 weeks!!!) only to be told that the consultant having never seen my husband downgraded him to a routine appointment with a waiting list of 18 weeks!!!!!!!! So what now.... He had a follow up nhs physio appt yesterday and physio is ringing gp to say he cant find anything wrong with him and so is stopping treatment!!!! He is still in a lot of pain so are we going to have to wait a further 9 weeks for appt or do we go private again (despite having paid stamp all our life)!!! would make you mad!!!

    Still no diagnosis and husband feeling now is this how I am going to have to live rest of my life??? Any further advice much appreciated...

  • Please go to Back on Track in Dungannon and see Julie McCammon physio. I will eat my hat if she can't fix his back in one visit!!! Best wishes

  • thanks Boozybird. He feels now that he has exhausted the physio route as feels he has damaged his Central Nervous System altho no one has confirmed this,. I am pushing him to physio to see if he can get any relief!!!

  • Oh flirtygert, what a tremendous strain you two must be under. I really feel for you. And all the waiting!. Yes, the lyrica can cause Dysphagia- swallowing problems. The list of side effects is huge!

    It sounds like anything sinister has been ruled out which is good.

    In my view the next step must be looking at central processing. In many ways your husband is right. The pain sounds like it is being processed by the brain as the nerve pathways have become hypersensitive. no amount of physical work by a manual therapist is likely to help really now.

    This sounds scary but don't worry. You can think of the brain as having 'learnt' the painful pathways but these can be unlearnt as our amazing brains are neuroplastic which means they can change, creating new pain free pathways.

    Can I recommend a couple of books to you?

    I really recommend you or your husband reads one of these:

    'They can't find anything wrong' dr David Clarke

    Or 'healing back pain' by dr David sarno. You may be surprised by what you read. If you want any further help do contact me. I'm an osteopath but while some of my approach is hands on my experience (based on the most recent evidence) is that for chronic pain more of a talking based approach can help. And I really do mean resolve the pain. This can be done over Skype. but happy to chat to you beforehand about any questions you may have. Please don't give up hope. Take care.

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