Chronic painful pushing sensation in thoracic spine region, produces severe muscle spasms--HELP


Q: I am a 28 year old female. 6' tall and 205 pounds.

I consider myself active: I attend jiu jitsu classes twice weekly and lift free weights and cardio at the gym twice weekly.

My profession is a photographer: about 20percent of my time is spent behind the camera, the other 80percent of the time is at a desk, editing photos on a computer.

Two years ago, I noticed a pain in my left midback region that felt like something was pushing on my lung with every breath, especially deep breaths. Almost like someone is digging their knuckles into the spot where my lat muscle meets my spine: close to the bottom of the shoulder blade.

I suspected that this was some sort of minor injury because of my sport; jiu jitsu is very close contact grappling. At the time, the pain wasn't severe enough to make me worry, and so I (stupidly) ignored it, thinking it would go away on it's own.

Fast forward a year and six months later, and the pushing-pain still exists, except multiplied ten times greater. When it gets BAD, it sends my muscles on the left side of my back into spasm and makes it extremely painful to even take a small breath. When I am tired after a long day, my back will begin to spasm for no reason. The spasming seems to have a direct connection to this "pushing" feeling that I'm having in my mid-back. Even when my back is not full-on spasming, the pushing feeling is still there.

This pushing feeling is 100 percent of the time, every day, every breath, for now the past two years. It has recently become much, much worse.

Other minor symptoms is a very tight neck and feeling like I need to "pop" it constantly, a tired lower back (especially when the spasming starts), pain in the front rib area of my left side (especially when spasming) and sometimes my arm and hand on my left side feels weird. My right arm and hand on my right side occasionally goes numb and gets painful, which my doctor attributed to a minor pinched nerve.

When I breathe, ESPECIALLY when my back is spasming, I can hear lots of "popping" noises in my ears, which sound like they are coming from joints in my back: similar sounds to when a person pops their knuckles.
MRI results of my lower back showed nothing remarkable. X-ray of my thoracic spine came back fine. My upper back and thoracic spine have not been MRIed.

My family doctor sent me to a pain management doctor, who suspected my ribs were sublaxating. She put me on pain medication, muscle relaxants, and I went to a physical therapist for about a month. None of the above ever completely gets rid of the pushing feeling, and my back still goes into spasm.

My pain management doctor just tells me to keep taking the pain killer and muscle relaxant--which I really don't feel is doing anything at all.

My family doctor suggested I go to a deep tissue massage therapist. The massage therapist mentioned that all of my muscles, especially teres major and minor and lateral dorsi were especially tight, which could be putting extra pressure on my ribs--causing the "pushing" feeling. She mentioned that she felt some scar tissue around my teres minor. I've had five weekly 1.5-hour long (very painful and expensive) deep tissue massages. For about 8 hours after I leave, I have only slight "pushing" pain. The pain ALWAYS returns, though.

The ONLY things that helps relieve the pain slightly is a) the deep tissue massage b) my TENS unit and c) laying in bed for a long, long time, which really isn't an option because LIFE. Even hydrocodone and muscle relaxants do nothing but make me feel woozy--the pushing sensation still exists (though, I will admit, the pain in the sensation is decreased).

And now, for the past two days, my entire left side of my body has been in complete spasm. My muscles are hard to the touch. I am having trouble breathing, I am fatigued, and quite honestly, scared.

I am tired of living with this pain and it's really starting to take a toll on my life, and I fully regret not going to the doctor when this first started two years ago.

Please--does anyone have an idea of what's going on?


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