Chronic upper back pain from scoliosis.

New Topic Post Reply Printable Version
[ << Previous Thread | Next Thread >> ]

Regular Member

Date Joined Mar 2007
Total Posts : 41
   Posted 7/20/2011 11:16 PM (GMT -6)   
I am suffering from chronic upper back pain from scoliosis. I have seen an orthopedic doctor once so far and he wanted to prescribe some NSAID's for the pain. The problem is I have Crohn's disease, so that makes NSAID's a no no.

Because of this the doctor prescribed a topical cream that has some muscle relaxers and pain relievers in it. So far after about 3 or 4 weeks of trying the topical cream I've determined that it doesn't actually work, at all. I get a little bit of relief from having the cream massaged into the muscles, but that's it.

At home I use a heating pad, but it's pretty much getting impossible to make it through an entire work day due to the back pain escalating throughout the day. I have been taking Tylenol arthritis, but it does little at best.

I just had some unrelated surgery a couple weeks ago and have been on Percocet since then for surgical pain, so that has eliminated my back pain, which has been a GREAT relief for the first time in a long time.

Is there anyone else in this type of situation? What has your doctor prescribed for you? What's worked for you?

Any feedback would be GREAT.

Post Edited (genoist) : 7/20/2011 10:28:45 PM (GMT-6)

Veteran Member

Date Joined Oct 2009
Total Posts : 5029
   Posted 7/21/2011 8:57 AM (GMT -6)   
I've got scoliosis which has caused all sorts of disc problems, also IBS and stomach surgery which limits my choices of NSAIDS.  My worst pain is lumbar, but I have problems in thoracic and cervical spine also.
If your problem is mainly muscle tension, spasms: 
There ARE a whole lot of NSAIDS, some that are not supposed to upset the stomach, some in creams or patches.  The OTC ones are useless.  I had no luck with piroxicam, but Mobic by mouth works for about 4 hours.  I had no luck with Voltaren gel.  Lidocaine patch didn't work either. 
Muscle relaxants may help too.  I haven't had any luck so far with any except diazepam, but since it's a benzo, I don't want to use it regularly and get addicted.  It's nice to have on hand for emergencies though.
I also use a TENS unit.  Your insurance will probably pay if you've tried other things first.  Alternately, they're available online, not horribly expensive.  I use mine when I have to drive or sit a long time.  When I get home I don't need the heating pad.
If you have mainly pinched nerves, you might want to see a pain doc about getting steroid injections.  Get a referral from your orthopod.  Not all of them do injections, so ask what the ones you call or get recommended do.  I've had some that worked for a long time, some that didn't work at all.  I liked the epidural in the L5-S1 and the one in the tail bone that hit all the nerves going down as well as going up some into the spine.
With scoliosis, I happened to see a Phys Therapist who informed me after testing that one leg is a little shorter than the other.  This is often the case with scoliosis.  I needed arch supports, saw a podiatrist who fixed me up with a tiny lift and wedges to throw my feet to the outside as well as arch supports.  This has helped my back!
I can't take Percocet unless I take Zofran with it.  I take tramadol, which helps, but isn't realy enough, especially since my pain doc only lets me have 3 a day and they only last 4 hours.

Heather Lynn
Regular Member

Date Joined May 2011
Total Posts : 283
   Posted 7/21/2011 9:38 AM (GMT -6)   
I suffered from chronic upper back pain for 7 years, and it was extremely difficult for me to work an entire day for the same reason. For me it was mostly muscular spasm pain. My pain was eventually mostly resolved by having breast reduction surgery. For me it was truly a miracle surgery, and was paid for by insurance because of the long documented history of back pain.

Have you tried physical therapy? My physical therapist gave me a great exercise for mobilizing my upper spine using a foam roller, but I am not sure if it would be safe with scoliosis.

Is your pain mostly muscular? One thing worth trying is the book "Pain Free" by Pete Egoscue. In it there are many exercises for musculoskeletal pain. He has a section where he talks about scoliosis, and a section about upper back pain. At the very least it would be worth trying, I have a friend who was helped tremendously by the exercises prescribed. I just got the book and have only done the exercises twice, but they seem to help a bit.
Fibromyalgia, low back pain/SI joint dysfunction, anxiety, obstructive sleep apnea, endometriosis, asthma

Forum Moderator

Date Joined Feb 2003
Total Posts : 16796
   Posted 7/21/2011 9:58 AM (GMT -6)   
Hi Genoist and welcome to the chronic pain forum. I am sorry to hear that things seem to be getting worse concerning the scoliosis. I have crohns too and understand the issues with the NSAIDS. My gi dr has told me to stay away from all of them because of the cd. Do you have any absorption problems? If so, that can interfere also with medication. I have this problem since my resection surgery.

Is this orthopedic the first dr you have seen for your scoliosis? Of course being as it is in the upper spine, I am assuming the thoracic spine. I am also thinking there is not much that can be done since drs do not like to do surgery in this area of the spine. To be very honest with you most drs do not like to write scripts for pain medication. If a PCP or a specialist decide to to give a patient a script for pain meds it is for a very short term. The only drs I know that are willing to script pain meds long term is a pain management dr. Taking care of chronic pain is their specialty and they are far more educated in the treatment of chronic pain. Do you have an appt set to go back to the orthopedic? If so, you should tell him what happened with your pain when you took the pain medication for another situation and see if he will give you the same medication for the problems you are having now. If he refuses then I would ask him to make a referral to a PM dr. Even your PCP can make a referral to CP dr, it does not have to come from a specialist. It may be a situation where you don't need to take pain medication every day but wouldn't it be nice to know you have something on hand to take that works if the pain started getting out of hand? You may also benefit for some physical therapy, there are lot of things that can be tried besides medication to help get the pain level down.I think you should discuss this in more detail with the dr. You need to make him/her understand that it is interfering with your work and your life.

Anyway, I wanted to pop on here and tell you welcome aboard the CP forum. Take care.
Moderator Chronic Pain Forum

Regular Member

Date Joined Jan 2011
Total Posts : 374
   Posted 7/22/2011 4:29 PM (GMT -6)   
Hi there!

I have scoliosis also, and it used to be the source of most of my chronic back pain. I experienced mostly lumbar pain, but eventually I had upper back pain as well. In my case, my scoliosis is mild to moderate and was not something that could be helped by any drastic procedures. What helped me the most was actually physical therapy. I went a few times a week for therapy to strengthen the side of my body that was weak due to the curvature. In addition, they used heat and massage to relax the other side of my body that was so used to bearing most of the weight. The massage and heat helped me out long term, as in, the pain was drastically reduced even after therapy ended.

I'm currently having all kinds of other back problems causing my pain right now, but my doctor just put me on Tramadol. I was on Vicodin, but I had limited results with it. Back when the primary concern was my scoliosis, however, my regular doctor had me on a muscle relaxer and Naproxen. Although I don't have Crohn's Disease, thankfully, I do have irritable bowel syndrome and acid reflux--and the Naproxen was simply too much for my stomach to handle. So eventually I dropped the Naproxen and just used over the counter medications like Motrin. In your case, since you can't use NSAIDs I am not sure what would be helpful, and like others have said, you would probably benefit from a pain doctor helping you out. They will have a way better idea of what can and can't help you, especially when it comes to what medications you can or can't take.

Thanks for posting, and I hope you're having a low pain day!

Veteran Member

Date Joined Apr 2010
Total Posts : 2265
   Posted 7/22/2011 5:15 PM (GMT -6)   
Hi Genoist

Welcome to the cp forum. I don't have scoliosis, but I do have thoracic (upper back) pain due to an injury that was caused by a fall that I took. I just wanted you to know that I do know about the pain that upper back pain causes.

I would recommend asking for a referral to a pain management doctor and try a heating pad. A pain management doctor will know how to help you with the medication restrictions that you have. I don't know if it would help, but I use BenGay and Maxifreeze and they seem to take the edge off. I also noticed that you tried Tylenol Arthritis and it didn't help. I also use that and Bayer Back and Body. Maybe that might help. Also maybe a muscle relaxer might help, which I keep forgetting to ask my doctor about.

I hope you get some relief soon.

Dx: osteoarthritis, bursitis in left hip, Osteoarthrits in right hip, compression fracture in thoracic spine due to falling on frozen ground March 2001 , ddd, spinal stenosis, bone spurs, osteoarthritis in spine, osteoarthritis in both knees
Meds: Fentanyl patch, oxycodone, otc: BenGay, Tylenol Arthritis on occasion

Veteran Member

Date Joined Oct 2010
Total Posts : 932
   Posted 7/23/2011 2:43 PM (GMT -6)   
Hi Genoist,

Most of my chronic pain comes from scoliosis in my upper back and neck (C4-T4). My left shoulder is noticeably higher than my right, my left trapezius muscle is almost always in spasm and I get a burning pain near my shoulder blade and down my left arm.

Arching forward from the upper torso causes the pain to worsen and I typically have to eat quickly then lie down given the pain. I also find the standard (bad) posture while working in front of a computer to become excruciating.

I take daily Ultram ER 300mg (started with 200mg in 2007). I found it very helpful until lately as the pain has worsened of my tolerance has built. You might want to start with this drug as it is among the most mild opioids and, for me, it helped with my mood and energy (it is prescribed off label as an anti-depressant). Vicodin or Percocet can then be reserved for breakthrough pain on particularly bad days. Talk to your GP about this regimen or try to find a good pain management specialist in your area.

Also, I have my wife give me massages, use heat or ice as needed, and have tried various chiropractors and PT. These offer at least some temporary help, maybe 20 minutes to a few hours.
New Topic Post Reply Printable Version
Forum Information
Currently it is Sunday, September 23, 2018 10:42 PM (GMT -6)
There are a total of 3,005,971 posts in 329,290 threads.
View Active Threads

Who's Online
This forum has 161814 registered members. Please welcome our newest member, thk.
300 Guest(s), 9 Registered Member(s) are currently online.  Details
Youngguy90, ANB, Mind body spirit, auzzie, sebreg, Girlie, Noah2112, 61Impala, Alxander