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Old 12-28-2012, 11:20 AM   #1
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Recurrent upper back/neck strain

I'm 26 and have repeatedly had upper back/neck strains (right side) over the past few years. It is generally right along the right side of my spine, but can expand out some to my right shoulder blade and also run to the very top of my shoulder. It first happened just sitting at home with my neck craned down and to one side watching tv. Since then it has happened repeatedly while working out. I have aggravated it when doing shrugs, bench press, tricep push downs, pull-ups, and shoulder presses. Whenever it happens it doesn't seem too bad that night, but waking up the next day I can barely turn my head.

The first several times it would be basically fine 3-5 days later. Once this summer though it took 7-8 weeks. During this time I saw my primary physician a couple times and he sent me to physical therapy, which just had me do light stretches and that's about it. It slowly got better but I don't think it had to do with the pt. I was also on anti- inflammatory ex and muscle relaxers. After a couple months of it feeling fine, I played tennis one night and the next day I woke up and it was aggravated. This was the first time at was aggravated and I was not aware of any one point where I felt like I had strained it. It was not nearly as bad as other times so I thought it would quickly go away. A month later it was still irritated, but not bad so I started playing tennis and working out with light weights.

After a month of this, and it staying just slightly irritated, I worked out two days ago and did some light upper back exercises and not it is very aggravated. Again, it did not feel like it pulled at any one point, I just woke up the next day and it was very irritated.

I am just looking for any suggestions to do beyond stretches and antiinflammatories. I am still doing those on my own. Is there some sort of specialist I should see? I just feel that I am 26 and don't want to deal with continually straining these muscles indefinitely until there is some sort of severe damage (if there isn't already). Any advice welcome. Thanks!

 
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Old 12-28-2012, 06:46 PM   #2
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Re: Recurrent upper back/neck strain

I think I would go see a sports medicine orthopedic doctor for the initial evaluation and to figure out what is going on.

There are a number of sub-specialties under the "orthopedics" umbrella, including an orthopedic spine surgeon. I think for your purposes though a good place to start would be to look for an orthopedic doctor that has fellowship training in sports medicine. If you have an orthopedic clinic in your city, look on their website for the sports medicine doctor. This will be a different specialty from an orthopedic surgeon.

Another possibility would be to speak to an experienced trainer at a well-regarded health club and ask for suggestions for a sports medicine doctor.

It sounds like there are some issues with muscles and/or soft tissue that may be becoming a chronic injury.

 
Old 12-29-2012, 09:52 AM   #3
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Re: Recurrent upper back/neck strain

[QUOTE=Bpain;5109760]I'm 26 and have repeatedly had upper back/neck strains (right side) over the past few years. It is generally right along the right side of my spine, but can expand out some to my right shoulder blade and also run to the very top of my shoulder. It first happened just sitting at home with my neck craned down and to one side watching tv. Since then it has happened repeatedly while working out. I have aggravated it when doing shrugs, bench press, tricep push downs, pull-ups, and shoulder presses. Whenever it happens it doesn't seem too bad that night, but waking up the next day I can barely turn my head.

The first several times it would be basically fine 3-5 days later. Once this summer though it took 7-8 weeks. During this time I saw my primary physician a couple times and he sent me to physical therapy, which just had me do light stretches and that's about it. It slowly got better but I don't think it had to do with the pt. I was also on anti- inflammatory ex and muscle relaxers. After a couple months of it feeling fine, I played tennis one night and the next day I woke up and it was aggravated. This was the first time at was aggravated and I was not aware of any one point where I felt like I had strained it. It was not nearly as bad as other times so I thought it would quickly go away. A month later it was still irritated, but not bad so I started playing tennis and working out with light weights.

After a month of this, and it staying just slightly irritated, I worked out two days ago and did some light upper back exercises and not it is very aggravated. Again, it did not feel like it pulled at any one point, I just woke up the next day and it was very irritated.

I am just looking for any suggestions to do beyond stretches and antiinflammatories. I am still doing those on my own. Is there some sort of specialist I should see? I just feel that I am 26 and don't want to deal with continually straining these muscles indefinitely until there is some sort of severe damage (if there isn't already). Any advice welcome. Thanks![/QUOTE]

I also have exactly what you described. Mine was initially triggered almost two years ago by driving - I was very tense during a long, stressful nighttime highway drive in heavy traffic and rain. I woke up the next a.m. with a locked muscle. Since then, tennis and lifting even light weights will often make me feel it again; anything that works that muscle. Mine is either the trapezius or rhomboid muscle; not sure which.

I tried a nerve block injection into it which did nothing; neither did muscle relaxers. I am wondering if there is more than a muscle component to this injury and whether I should get an MRI. It's not really painful; just tight and locked at times.

The only things that helped me were a masseuse leaning into the area with high pressure, a hard stream of hot shower water beating on it, and time off without working the muscle; the last one being most important. It seems to be a very common problem among tennis players and weight lifters. We probably just made a tiny muscle tear or some other injury in the area and the muscle is trying to guard it. My masseuse told me my upper back muscles are unbelievably tight.

Other than possibly getting an MRI someday, I think rest and then stretching and massage may be the only help for this. I also use a lot of heat and bought one of those heating pads that fit around your shoulders.

 
Old 12-30-2012, 03:33 PM   #4
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Re: Recurrent upper back/neck strain

Thanks for the replies. I plan to contact a sports medicine ortho on Jan 2 (once offices open again). CT06405 - does your upper back crack/snap when turning your upper body? I noticed after my worst strain this summer that my upper back (right side) now cracks pretty much any time I turn my upper body to the right. It is in the lowest part of the area that has pain.

Also, I'm not sure what you mean by a locked muscle exactly, but mine is more pain and tightness than a locked muscle. When I say I can barely turn my head the day after I strain it, I mean because it is painful. I think it is possible I could turn it, it would just be very painful. Thanks!

 
Old 12-30-2012, 04:37 PM   #5
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Re: Recurrent upper back/neck strain

[QUOTE=Bpain;5110528]Thanks for the replies. I plan to contact a sports medicine ortho on Jan 2 (once offices open again). CT06405 - does your upper back crack/snap when turning your upper body? I noticed after my worst strain this summer that my upper back (right side) now cracks pretty much any time I turn my upper body to the right. It is in the lowest part of the area that has pain.

Also, I'm not sure what you mean by a locked muscle exactly, but mine is more pain and tightness than a locked muscle. When I say I can barely turn my head the day after I strain it, I mean because it is painful. I think it is possible I could turn it, it would just be very painful. Thanks![/QUOTE]

Hi Bpain, my upper back doesn't snap at all at this point in time. I just get a muscle that locks up with a slight pain and a pulling sensation if I try to move my head down or around. My pain is very minimal, it's more tightness. I am going to quit doing any weight workout that irritates that shoulder and neck area at all, and use a theraband and a body blade instead to work out that arm. I find it clears up pretty quickly if I don't lift weights with my left arm and shoulder.

Your cracking sounds like it could be an inflamed joint or possibly bursitis - let's hope it's not a broken vertebrae! I had bursitis from tennis years ago. It was a sac of synovial fluid in my right upper back which formed due to joint and muscle irritation. Mine came from pulling down too quickly on my tennis serve. I would feel it snap over the joint when I'd move my upper back - like my whole right upper back would shift - and it was constantly painful. You can get these sacs of fluid removed, but I opted to live with it, for some strange reason. I'd hate to tell you how long it took to go away on its own; ten years!

I would definitely mention the cracking to the the doctor and try to get some imaging tests done. It sounds like your body is trying to protect a muscle or joint injury, possibly something that is getting serious if it is that painful.

 
Old 02-11-2013, 08:52 PM   #6
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Re: Recurrent upper back/neck strain

To follow up since I've seen the ortho and had the MRI - he says arthritis and a bone spur, as well as a narrowing of the spine due to the bone spur. He thinks the narrowing is not currently a problem. He says I am aggravating the arthritis, which aggravates the surrounding muscles.

I am still taking Baclofen, and I started working out fairly lightly again. However, yesterday, for no apparent reason, it locked up again. It was looser today and Idid a light workout, and it is now definitely reaggravated.

I have a follow-up appt in a couple weeks in which he said he may prescribe Cymbalta. He said it would treat the arthritis itself, rather than the symptoms as the baclofen does. However, he made no mention of it primarily being an anti-depressant, which makes me not want to take it. Does anyone have experience taking Cymbalta for arthritis?

He did not seem concerned with the clicking and also did not seem worried by the overall diagnosis. I am 26 and really didn't know much of anything about arthritis so I walked out of there just happy with a diagnosis. But now I am worried that this is something that will just get progressively worse (which it seems to be doing).

I may get a second opinion before taking Cymbalta. Are there any other treatments for arthritis in the neck?

Here is what my MRI actually said:

C5-C6: Posterior disc osteophyte complex. Moderate left foraminal stenosis.

No other areas of the MRI had any issues.

 
Old 02-11-2013, 09:23 PM   #7
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Re: Recurrent upper back/neck strain

There are some conversations pertaining to Cymbalta and arthritis on the arthritis board. You might find it interesting reading.

Even though Cymbalta is advertised for depression, it is often prescribed for pain.

You are correct that arthritis usually does not get better, but it could stabilize and not continue to develop. But as we age, normal wear and tear causes arthritic changes in our spines. It is just worse in some than others....

Snapping is often a tendon or ligament snapping over the joint, and most times, nothing to worry about. If the doctor didn't see anything of concern on the MRI, I would guess this is what is causing the noise.

 
Old 02-12-2013, 06:21 AM   #8
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Re: Recurrent upper back/neck strain

[QUOTE=Bpain;5131983]Here is what my MRI actually said:

C5-C6: Posterior disc osteophyte complex. Moderate left foraminal stenosis.

No other areas of the MRI had any issues.[/QUOTE]

The moderate stenosis and bone spur are not going to go away, unfortunately, and are probably what is causing your pain. I can't see how Cymbalta is going to help that significantly, but I'm not an expert on antidepressants. Maybe they help with the pain itself. However, you'll have to see about any side effects if you try it.

Maybe see a neurosurgeon who could deal with it microscopically and get another opinion?

 
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