Thoracic Disc Herniations

In 1996, I slipped on black ice and landed directly on my mid-back and my head. When I went to my GP she sent me to an orthopedist, who diagnosed my condition as chronic back syndrome, even though I explained that I had just hurt my back after this fall.

I was having stabbing pain in my mid-back and pain that radiated to my chest. My GP then sent me to a rheumotologist and he said I had fibromyalgia. I was so frustrated because the pain would not lessen.

I was seeing a chiropractor for my usual adjustments and it was he who realized that after months, the sensitivity and pain were worsening and he recommended an MRI.

Finally, 6 months later, the MRI revealed two large disc herniations at T-7 and T-8. It was only after seeing the results of the MRI did the doctors start to take my pain seriously.

I went to a pain management clinic and worked with an orthopedist. After several nerve blocks, the pain only worsened and I was in chronic severe pain and out of work for nearly a year.

Fast forward to  February 2010. I had bronchitis and began to get rib pain and shooting back pain. Since 1997, I always had dull back pain where the herniations were. I ignored this pain, but due to the pain I avoided coughing.

I wound up in the hospital with pneumonia and uncontrolled asthma. While receiving a breathing treatment, I advised the staff that my back felt like it was going to explode. I had been coughing tremendously and the hospital staff said it was muscle pain from the coughing and gave me pain medication.

After I was out of the hospital, the pain remained constant. It was stabbing and nerve pain in my chest. I remembered this pain. It was the same pain that I had in 1997 after my fall. I told my doctor that I thought I might have re-herniated my disc. She said it was just muscle pain and it would resolve. After three weeks the pain was now daily and severe.

I kept telling my doctor that the pain was so severe it had to be a herniated disc. She was getting fed up with my complaining and finally had an MRI set up and said, "This is such a waste of money because this is merely muscle pain."

She was giving me pain meds and thought that I was being dramatic. I had the MRI and later in the week my doctor's office called and said I needed to come in to discuss the findings of the MRI. The MRI showed herniations in T-6 to T-11. 6 moderate herniated discs.

My doctor finally admitted that she should have listened to me.  She was surprised that all of these disks were herniated, considering it is very difficult to herniate the thoracic region.

We do not know if DJD had weakened these disks and the massive coughing put pressure on the area and this caused the herniations.

I read an article which stated that it is not usual to have pain with thoracic herniated discs. Well, this is totally wrong in my case. It is now 2 months later and I still have daily, unrelenting pain and have to take medications to function. I go to PT three times a week and have tried every means to deal with the pain.

But, the moral of the story is doctors need to listen to and believe what their patients tell them. So often doctors will dismiss what patients tell them. Twice doctors have doubted that I could have thoracic herniated discs.

- Cindi

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