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upper back pain, left arm/leg, disrupted digestion--help!

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I am a 24 year old healthy woman. I eat a very healthy, well-balanced diet and I used to work out most days. At the beginning of January I started working nights at my job. It was very hard to adjust to the time schedule, and some of the work was outside in the cold. At the end of January I was outside at night in really cold temperatures, turned to grab the handrail while walking up the stairs, and felt a little yank in my mid back (T6 area). It kind of hurt, but nothing extreme, so I just kept on going on with what I was doing. The next morning I woke and my back was very sore. I tried stretching it and went to work, only to discover it was not something ok—it REALLY hurt. I went to see an occupational health doctor a few days later, who said it must be a muscle pull and I needed physical therapy. So I went to physical therapy three times a week, used heat packs all day, plus IB proufen throughout the day to try to stay active. I got an MRI and x-rays, which all came back fine. It is important to note that I experienced a change in my bowel movements during this time. Some days I would be fine, some days I would have spastic diarrhea (and I apologize for the vivid description). It would be multiple times a day. I thought this was probably related to all the soda I was drinking, gum I was chewing, etc to try to stay awake during the nights I was working, so I just thought it would go away. However, I can’t be certain if this came up after or before the injury that night (I think it may have been before…). On my days off I actually looked forward to working out every day (elliptical/walking—not running) because this released all the muscle pain in my neck/shoulders. I would come home and ice, then get a hot shower, which felt great. Some days it would be better, some days it would hurt really bad. This went on for over month, so I finally decided to see a spine specialist. The day I saw a spine specialist was the day everything else started. The PA examined me by having me bend over and tapping my spine up and down with a rubber mallet. The doctor said I needed a bone scan. I left disappointed with no answers and confused.
That night and the next day I had a lot of pain in my upper back and ribs. I saw my physical therapist who tried to do some work. Nothing helped. I had to get on a flight that afternoon, and during the flight I felt my entire upper body was on fire. I was nauseated and had a severe pain in my ribs and my upper back felt like it was two hundred degrees. After emergency trip visit for liquids (to cure dehydration) and morphine (to kill the pain) I woke up the next day in a new state, unable to return home, with a whole new slew that have been developing ever since.
I started seeing a chiropractor the next day, who took an xray of my spine and could see the rib was mis-aligned at the T-6. He helped realign it over the next few days which greatly decreased the rib pain, but not the back pain. I was constipated for 3 days (from the medication from the hospital) and finally started having normal bowel movements. I’ve been seeing a chiropractor for over two weeks now and experienced a myarid of symptoms that will come and go with severity each day:

Right Foot-middle of foot, middle arch—very sore—only help is wearing tennis shoes with arch supports
Right neck very sore—from where chin meet throat, all the way to the collar bone (Arching out)
Right ribs very ore, especially on edges, with muscle soreness radiating to arch below sternum and left ribs
Back pain-starting at the T-6 (like a pinching), with burning/tender muscles around it, all the way up the spine to the neck
Very sore muscles around the collar bone
Horribly sore/stuff left shoulder, left arm muscle sore (back of arm from shoulder to elbow), numbness in left two fingers/lower arm
**NEW TODAY: Numbness tingling down left leg and left foot

The only time I can get relief of any of these symptoms is with icing my back/upper neck. My ribs had been feeling continually better until two days ago—all the sudden I felt exactly like I did when I got off the plane: burning ribs, back, nausea. This was also accompanied by an extreme upset in my bowels. I’m not sure what’s causing what, but obviously they are related. I saw my chiropractor the next day, who said my ribs had become misaligned with my spine again. I have no idea why this is happening. The only thing that provides me relief if icing, but I can’t lie on an ice pack all day. I have doctor’s appointment with a back doctor scheduled for 2.5 weeks away. But I need some answers before then, and this is why I’m writing this—if someone, anyone, could help me find some answers. I really think it could be related to my gallbladder, based on symptoms that are associated with it--upsest bowels, upper back pain, rib pain, etc. The numbness in the limbs is definitely thorwing me off though. I know the T6 can affect this, but I don't know what's affecting what?!
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replied March 28th, 2011
Hello and thank you for posting your medical question on E health forum.

From the history provided it seems that you might be having sciatica , due to soft tissue pressure on the nerve roots in the lumbosacral spine.

The other causes of your back pain could be musculoskeletal spasm.

You might benefit by physiotherapy and back strengthening exercises as well as medications to reduce the neuropathic pain.

In case they are less responsive nerve block procedures can be helpful.

You might consult your doctor or a spine surgeon for further evaluation and treatment.

I hope this helps.



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