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I am a 27-year-old male who is generally extremely fit and active. About a week ago, I started noticing some pain in my neck, lower left side, a bit into the shoulder, when I woke up. I thought I had just slept in an odd position, because I do that sometimes. Since then, the neck pain has gone down nearly 50%, but now I experience a bit of aching in a small portion of my upper back, only on the left side. Kind of soreness really, more than sharp pain. I shovelled some snow the other day, and I wonder if that did it. The soreness, the aching.... it goes away after a nice, warm shower, or when I lie down, or just basically rest my back. And actually, I can go a period of time, feeling completely normal and no aching. But just when I think it's healed, I feel the aching and soreness again. One friend said aching like that is very dangerous and can mean a slipped disc or something. But a different friend said, if it goes away after a warm shower or rest, I just need to give it time and rest, and I will feel better in a week or so. This has happened to him, too, after shovelling. I don't have insurance, and don't have any money to just go see a doctor unless it's a huge emergency. It's not like my back is aching so bad that I can't function or anything... but it has me worried. In your opinion, could this be something really serious...or something that just needs some anti-inflammatory stuff and rest? Any advice would be welcome!

I've been battling the same for a while now and have reduced its frequency and duration, though I suspect I am going to have to take the plunge and get some physio work done to see if that will help further.

I have managed the discomfort through the following:

  -  Change from two pillows to one, or none at all.

  -  Adjusted my driving position in a major way, so not reaching as far.

  -  Changed my position when cycling, so handlebars are closer.

  -  Strengthened my upper back muscles through 'butterflies', etc

  -  Stopped carrying heavy things on one side only.

  -  Taken magnesium daily.

  -  Applied Atrogel (Arnica) and taken Arnica tablets after aggravating the symptoms.

  -  Try to avoid caffeine and stress.

Like you, I exercise a great deal and most important was being able to continue that.

However, I have switched to higher intensity, shorter and more varied forms.

I can't claim to have entirely remedied the problem, as I drive long distances every week and have a bad habit of working at a tablet on my lap, so my neck is straining downwards to glance at it but I know what the triggers are now and have made those adjustments.

I have a very slight scoliosis (curvature) of the upper spine that is likely to be the cause of my muscular pain.

All will have this by older age but some develop it a little earlier, so it may be worth seeking a free introductory consultation from a physio.

If they confirm that or a similar mechanical cause, then supplements are unlikely to reverse the cause but targeting the affected muscles will help.

I'd strongly suspect the cause is mechanical but since it comes and goes and you can identify activities that aggravate it, I'd not worry about it causing other problems, or having a serious underlying cause.

Rarely, a tumour in the spine can lead to pain but this is very rare and would affect your co-ordination and circulation to the limbs.

Far far more likely, though, the cause is as discussed.

If you search for "neck headaches" you may find the symptoms you describe.

And yes, you should find the problem resolves a couple of weeks after it came on (unlike mine)..

Best wishes

Earle


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