I recently treated a retired school teacher who came to me with the following symptoms, symptoms I might add that are mentioned frequently at numerous Physiotherapist, Chiropractors and Doctors practices alike.
She said it had started about six weeks previously as an ache but had got worse two weeks ago following some DIY. She had painted a rather large ceiling with a roller, as her husband can’t roll ceilings because if he looks up too much, he can get neck pain and a ‘fizzing’ type sensation down his left arm (but that’s another blog post!) so she was committed to doing the rolling.
She also felt that her posture was not great and later upon examination I had to agree that her posture was less than perfect, but that was not the reason for her booking an appointment and I confirmed that her posture could be helped at a later stage, but one thing at a time!
Now pain and/or discomfort in this area of the spine is very common and something I see and treat regularly in my osteopathic practices. But, when talking to the lady about her discomfort and asking some more questions about the pain and her general health, we call this the ‘case history’ and it is the case history that helps your medical professional in making a diagnosis, I was unhappy about a couple of other symptoms she had when questioned so I asked her to see her GP so that we could rule out any other causes of her back pain.
Fortunately after a couple of tests arranged by her GP the good news was all was clear for me to go ahead and treat her and following some osteopathic treatment her pain was resolved. I also gave her some postural advice and she also purchased our Posture Support Brace. At her last appointment we both agreed that her posture was also starting to improve and this improvement would almost certainly help reduce any further episodes of mid thoracic pain.
So why did I want more tests for her back pain?
As I said, mid thoracic back pain, (the level of where a bra strap is) is very common and very rarely of a serious nature but when the pain is associated with other symptoms then the pain should be checked out by your health care practitioner or GP to rule out other possible causes. In the case in question I was concerned about a risk of Pancreatic Cancer because the lady had some of the following symptoms (see below) which she had not thought to be relevant to her back pain:
See your GP if you have back pain and any of the following symptoms:
- Loss of appetite, a feeling of nausea and vomiting and / or maybe indigestion that is not responding to medication
- Pain / discomfort in your stomach which radiates around to the spine
- Feeling tired and exhausted without any reason
- Changes in your urine and stools. Pancreatic cancer may result in darker urine and or pale, oily and smelly stools.
- You have a yellowing of your skin and/or eyes, (jaundice) which is often associated with very itchy skin.
- You are losing weight without trying to!
- You have recently developed diabetes which is not linked to weight gain.
To find out more about pancreatic cancer visit https://aware.pancreaticcanceraction.org/
Take home message
Back pain is a very common problem that is very rarely of a serious underlying cause and osteopaths, chiropractors, physiotherapists and your doctor are trained to spot when further tests should be carried out. Do not self-diagnose or just leave it, particularly if you have other symptoms, get it checked out just to be sure.
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