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JoeDavola

Upper Back Fucked - Can Barely Breathe

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I'll try to compose my thoughts on this as it's 5am and quite frankly I'm rather freaked out by this.

A couple of days ago, about 24 hours after a weightlifting session, I started to get a pain in my upper back. The pain first manifested only when I lay down in bed; on my back and especially on my side, but did not occur when I was standing up, or even when I was sitting upright in a chair (e.g. at the office). I would say the pain originates from the bottom of the thoracic spine up to about the middle of it - i.e. starts at middle back and radiates up.

The pain woke me up a couple of times in previous nights but I got a good night's sleep the night before this night. And then of course yesterday I had another weight lifting session, the total knob that I am. During that I found that the easiest way to trigger this pain was to passively hang from a pullup bar; the pain was so bad that I had to stop (previously this had caused no pain). But I did the workout, avoiding the painful stuff, and there wasn't any pain during the day.

Went to bed last night, then woke up at about 4am the pain is so bad when I'm lying in bed that I'm literally struggling to breathe. Had to get up and sit on the sofa so I could catch my breath as much as anything. When I try to breathe in it feels like something spasms in my upper back, then reflexively my abs spasm and I can't get the breath in at all. This leaves me gasping for air when lying down or on my side, my back spasam-ing in pain when I try to breathe in. The sensation of constantly gasping for tiny bits of air is the scarier thing than the back pain, which of course makes you stressed so even worse spasms and even less chances to take a proper breath. As I'm sitting on the sofa here there's some pain when I breathe in but not enough to stop me breathing; but as soon as i try and lie down I know I'm gonna be fucked.

Any advice here, I'm guessing I just need to get my arse to casualty tomorrow morning and get this stuff x-rayed/mri-ed? I'm reading about herniated discs and all sorts here and I'm hoping I've not permanently damaged my back in my stupid quest to look better.

I have a feeling what's caused this issue is a 'hip hinge' movement that I never fucking liked - bending over holding an olympic bar - I could feel the strain on my upper back. Stupid fucker that I am.

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I'd go and see a physio this morning asap. Well worth the £45 imo compared to the well meaning but generally fairly useless general NHS are with this type of thing. 

Could be something fairly annoying and  serious or if you're lucky a bit of painful massage and such from a decent physio could sort out in 30 mins. 

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1 minute ago, ccc said:

I'd go and see a physio this morning asap. Well worth the £45 imo compared to the well meaning but generally fairly useless general NHS are with this type of thing. 

Could be something fairly annoying and  serious or if you're lucky a bit of painful massage and such from a decent physio could sort out in 30 mins. 

Yeah the physio thought crossed my mind too - there's a few private ones near my gaff - I could see one (or two) over the next couple of days whereas if I go to casualty I'll be sat in a waiting room all day. GP visits are currently a one month wait.

There's a sports physio literally a few steps from my apartment so I'll give him a buzz tomorrow - can't make things any worse.

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19 minutes ago, ccc said:

Well worth it imo - probably easy a month wait for an NHS physio round here. What's the point....

Will call first thing. I'm guessing any meds that would stop the spasams would be prescription only but I'll check with the physio on that too. Don't like popping pills but I'd be more than happy to for this fuckin thing.

I stopped foam rolling the top half of my spine because it was causing a smaller version of this kind of pain, so I'm hoping the damage isn't anything too permanent and I've just fucked a muscle up and have a stiff upper back.

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Sounds more muscular than disc related to me.  Try not to panic, backs are strange/complicated things and it could be nothing. Best to get it checked by a professional to be safe though. In the meantime you could try icing it every couple of hours for 20mins at a time (do not put ice directly on the skin) to take any inflammation down. Also load up on  paracetamol and ibuprofen to help with the pain. The ibuprofen will also help with any swelling. Try not to do much for a couple days at least but keep moving a bit if you can. Hope it gets better soon.

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How are your hydration levels, and is there anything else causing inflammation in your body? These are the two things that can trigger back spasms for me. Solution for me is rest, anti-inflammatories, and no alcohol. Oh, and once possible, lots of stretching. Hasn't happened in fact since yoga became regular.

Physios only any good if you can find a good one whose techniques correspond with your particular issue. The female type that like getting their hands on men are the best(only if also technically good) as they will boost your ego with flattery at the same time, even though you know it must be part of their routine it's surprising how much it adds to the experience.

 

Edited by swissy_fit

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Don't let any "sports physio" charlatan fuck about with it. 

I bet your "PT" does a handy sideline in "sports physio" too? 

Rest is for a week it'll probably heal itself, 

Then remember that i said many weeks ago that "Heavy Weights Cause Injuries" 

Yes humans may need to move a heavy weight on occasion but not 3 times a week for and hour at a time :D

Use lighter weights 3x12 if you want to look good, no need to impress body dismorphic afflicted weirdos in gyms by "moving some weight"

It's probably coming from bar position in the squat (bar placement riding a vertebrae or disc in the upper spine / upper back rounding under too much weight / looking up instead of 45 deg down) or trying to pull too much weight in the bent over barbell row? 

Edited by WorkingPoor

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Yep, get to a proper physio, ideally one with recommendations.

I had a problem in the same area a few months ago - during a workout I replaced a heavy dumbell onto the rack, and felt something click very slightly out of place. The next morning I was in some fairly serious pain, enough that I was worried that I'd done some quite serious damage. My physio is excellent - rapidly diagnosed a vertebra that had moved slightly out of place, and the muscles all around it were freaking out and spasming. Apparently by the time I got my shirt off, she could see one side of my back was completely tight where the muscles had locked up. Quick massage and ultrasound and the muscles were taken care of, and the vertebra clicked back into place on its own a couple of days later.

One big difference between me and you - I stopped the workout when I realised I'd done something. If you have an injury, don't workout until you know what it is and how you can safely work around it. You're off games until further notice, Joe ;)

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Extended rest and a rethink sounds like what's needed, muscle spasms are not going to stop you breathing, frightening maybe, but self-limiting if it gets that far

Edited by Panther

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23 minutes ago, WorkingPoor said:

Don't let any "sports physio" charlatan fuck about with it. 

I bet your "PT" does a handy sideline in "sports physio" too? 

Rest is for a week it'll probably heal itself, 

Then remember that i said many weeks ago that "Heavy Weights Cause Injuries" 

Yes humans may need to move a heavy weight on occasion but not 3 times a week for and hour at a time :D

Use lighter weights 3x12 if you want to look good, no need to impress body dismorphic afflicted weirdos in gyms by "moving some weight"

It's probably coming from bar position in the squat (bar placement riding a vertebrae or disc in the upper spine) or trying to pull too much weight in the bent over barbell row? 

Must say I second this, am not a fan of weights though to be fair I am clearly a different physiology to Joe(heavier, older, less healthy eater though not unhealthy). Weightlifting builds muscles very quickly in my case but makes me look silly and soon no trousers will fit, plus have tendency to get back spasms too.

Yoga and swimming plus plenty of food much better, no back problems, lycra-clad women in the classes and still plenty of muscle.

 

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I herniated a lumber disc (the first one, l5 s1) in Feb this year. It's been the worst 6 months of my life. I still can barely sit down.

Get yourself to the doctor's Joe. Will post later when I have more time. Though it sounds like your issue is upper back. Hopefully not a disc.

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I recommend oesteopathy. They'll open the facet joints and allow a trapped nerve to reset. Sometimes the pain relief is instantaneous. They'll also diagnosed a bulging disc...but it's unlikely to be that.

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It could be as simple as a trapped nerve. They can cause trememdous pain.

Often you can get terrible breathing problems from a trapped nerve in the thoracic part of the spine - difficult to breathe and painful. It is because nerves comes out of the spine at that pafrt in your back which deal with the lungs and movement of the chest.

But whatever it is you have had some great advice here. It probably is far less serious than you imagine. It is just bloody painful and scary at the moment.

I would:

1. Go see doctor for pain-killers - and get a GP's POV.

2. Before taking pain-killers I would then go see a physio, osteo or chiropractor armed with what the doctor has said. You GP surgery may have a list of recommended people in the area. You may have someone in the area who is a mix of 2 of the 3 or all 3.

I would avoid the fashionable sports physios unless you can get a firm good recommendation about one. As always, try to find someone that people have used for problems rather than just hearsay.

Sorry to hear that you are going through this. If it helps at all, I have had some awful years with restricted breathing, pain in the front and side of chest. This was due to trapped nerves in the thoracic back due to compression and subluxation of vetertaebrae. You may have knocked a vertaebrae slightly out and trapped or strained some nerves.

Time and rest will be important. But getting help now is important. I would get painkillers from the GP and see one of the back specialists mentioned.

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Thanks for the replies folks, much appreciated. Went back to bed and put 3 pillows under my back in such a way that I could lie at an incline. This made it bearable and I actually nodded off for an hour. I'm hopeful that I can sleep tonight with that setup.

1 hour ago, swissy_fit said:

How are your hydration levels, and is there anything else causing inflammation in your body? These are the two things that can trigger back spasms for me. Solution for me is rest, anti-inflammatories, and no alcohol.

Ya know what my diet hasn't been as good as it usually is. By most people's standards it's still good but I''ll be cleaning it the fuck up until this clears up; although I don't think diet caused this.

1 hour ago, WorkingPoor said:

Then remember that i said many weeks ago that "Heavy Weights Cause Injuries" 

Yes humans may need to move a heavy weight on occasion but not 3 times a week for and hour at a time :D

Use lighter weights 3x12 if you want to look good, no need to impress body dismorphic afflicted weirdos in gyms by "moving some weight"

It's probably coming from bar position in the squat (bar placement riding a vertebrae or disc in the upper spine / upper back rounding under too much weight / looking up instead of 45 deg down) or trying to pull too much weight in the bent over barbell row? 

Yeah I think you're right. The guy I'm training with knows his stuff and all that but for what I'm paying I could pretty much get a physio for the same money. And there's such an emphasis on heavy weights that I think in the longer term it's just gonna invite injury, especially to a big tall skinny person with my medical history.

When I mentioned the injury to him he basically said that it was a niggle and that it was part of training, and that if you don't get that kinda niggle from time to time then you're not training hard enough. Not sure I agree that it's a worthwhile sacrifice.

I think it's either coming from a pull up type movement I was doing where i was hanging from a bar, or more likely the one where I was hinging at the hip holding an olympic bar, at the bottom of the movement you've got a great hamstring stretch but there's a lot of pressure on your upper back trying to keep the scapula retracted and everything in place.

This is the movement:

how-to-hip-hinge-for-ultimate-performanc

 

1 hour ago, Fully Detached said:

My physio is excellent - rapidly diagnosed a vertebra that had moved slightly out of place, and the muscles all around it were freaking out and spasming. Apparently by the time I got my shirt off, she could see one side of my back was completely tight where the muscles had locked up. Quick massage and ultrasound and the muscles were taken care of, and the vertebra clicked back into place on its own a couple of days later.

Interesting - did the physio use ultrasound as a diagnostic tool or a way to massage the muscles?

11 minutes ago, BigV said:

I herniated a lumber disc (the first one, l5 s1) in Feb this year. It's been the worst 6 months of my life. I still can barely sit down.

Get yourself to the doctor's Joe. Will post later when I have more time. Though it sounds like your issue is upper back. Hopefully not a disc.

Fuck - you've been through a rough time - I read all about the horrors of herniated/slipped discs and that's why I was panic-ed. My mum has osteoarthritis and has degeneration of the discs and it's been hell for her. Basically all the docs can do is pain meds. Yes when I googled this morning it seemed to suggest that herniated discs tended to be in lower back rather than upper.

5 minutes ago, Wahoo said:

I recommend oesteopathy. They'll open the facet joints and allow a trapped nerve to reset. Sometimes the pain relief is instantaneous. They'll also diagnosed a bulging disc...but it's unlikely to be that.

I'll have a check to see if there's an osteopath nearby as an option, cheers.

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23 minutes ago, JoeDavola said:

Basically all the docs can do is pain meds.

That's certainly my experience.

Whenever I have any joint, muscle or back problems I don't bother going to my GP but book a session with my oesteopath instead.

So far he's always got me on the path to recovery quickly.

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Jesus. Sounds awful, only recommend what others have said.  I've not put my back out with weights but have a bit of a weaker lower back. previously when I pulled it rest,  anti inflammatory med's, gentle yoga type stretching. But then again I don't do weights, only bodyweight exercises or lifting other people in martial arts classes.

Gp trip / walk in centre to exclude other serious stuff, I would suggest physio and osteopath.  keep off the heavy weights and stick to reps with lower weights / try bodyweight exercises.  also, this PTs advice seems a bit O.o

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Unfortunately the GP surgery I'm with has a one month wait to see them, and no drop in option. I'd have to go to A&E.

It's a nice day today so I'm going to go for a walk at lunch to keep everything mobile.

I'll call in at the Pharmacy and explain my symptoms, I'll see what I can buy from them in terms of anti inflammatory and pain meds - the most important immediate thing is that I get a good nights sleep again - that was scary what happened last night; and chronic sleep deprivation won't help me heal.

There's an Osteopath about 12 miles from me (which is a long way by Belfast standards ;), so I'll consider that as an option.

I think the risks of heavy weights outweigh the benefits, especially when you've got a medical system like the UK's that isn't really up to scratch with diagnosing and treating such things in any respectable time period. Heck even the guy who's training me had a slipped disc or something along those lines a couple of years back and said the NHS was no good at helping him.

Edited by JoeDavola

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Based upon 5 minutes of Internet research I'm going to make a firm diagnosis of AIDS or possibly ebola. It should clear up within 5 days with regular application of a topical anti-inflammatory cream around the affected area. Hth

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6 minutes ago, whitevanman said:

Based upon 5 minutes of Internet research I'm going to make a firm diagnosis of AIDS or possibly ebola. It should clear up within 5 days with regular application of a topical anti-inflammatory cream around the affected area. Hth

Cheers - I'll pick up some anti-inflammatory cream from the chemist.

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47 minutes ago, JoeDavola said:

I think the risks of heavy weights outweigh the benefits, especially when you've got a medical system like the UK's that isn't really up to scratch with diagnosing and treating such things in any respectable time period. Heck even the guy who's training me had a slipped disc or something along those lines a couple of years back and said the NHS was no good at helping him.

Heavy free weights are less good for most people because the movements are less controlled and you can easily make a mistake. Fine for experts. Almost certainly what happened was a small deviation from the position you should have been in while under heavy strain. Why risk it?

I know you want to bulk up a bit, there are plenty of gym machines that you can do that with without risking this kind of thing. Also eating a lot and swimming repeated sprints of front crawl and breaststroke will build muscle well.

Ashtanga yoga is brilliant all round, muscle and flex, but be prepared to struggle a bit at first. If my Irish in-law, one of the biggest men I've ever seen(120-130kg and about 2 metres, not fat), can do it, you can.

Edit :- no actually he's closer to 2m05 and 140kg on reflection, an absolute giant of a bloke.

Edited by swissy_fit
underestimate

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