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Sarah asked...

Hi, yesterday afternoon I noticed an increasingly sore upper back (area below shoulder blades). This was a general feeling of tightness followed by occasional pain on breathing in sharply. I lay flat and it seemed to ease off. There was no obvious incident that triggered this. I went to bed and awoke at 2.30am in agony as I turned over in the night I was gripped by muscle spasms in this area. I was able to sit myself up and then felt better in certain positions. When trying to lie down I found myself in considerable pain and was having muscle spasms. I got up and moved about stretching as it felt like something needed 'unhooking' in that area. In the end, paracetamol and ibuprofen made it ease off enough to sleep and relax again. I awoke today and felt ok - just a bit sore. I am a teachcer in a special school and am terrified that this is going to happen again at work. We are often involved in lifting the less able/wheechair users in school. I also have tennis elbow which I am trying to heal by using less and swapping sides with lifting tasks. Do you have any suggestions about treatment and prevention?

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The Answer

Given the nature of your work it is possible that you have developed a problem in your upper back which could be giving rise to the symptoms you have been experiencing. Equally gall bladder problems for instance could be causing similar symptoms such as these and a full diagnosis is essential to find out the exact nature of the problem here. 

In terms of treatments there are certainly ways both upper back or if it were a gall bladder problem for example can be successfully treated so please try not to worry too much regarding the impact on your work. Treatment for upper back problems usually consists of a combination of medical therapy such as pain relief, muscle relaxants and anti- inflammatory medications alongside physiotherapy if appropriate and it may be prudent to request an Occupational health assessment to support you in your role at work once you have clarified the condition. 

In the interim it would probably be very wise to stop any heavy lifting until you have been assessed. Under the circumstances I think an appointment with your Gp would be very sensible to discuss your symptoms, they will be able to diagnose this and arrange any tests such as scans to support the diagnosis and instigate an appropriate treatment plan with you as well.

Answered by the Health at Hand nurses  

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