In our 36 years of practice we have had many calls from people who were in a lot of pain. Sometimes a person calls saying that their neck pain “just kills”. So, we give them an appointment right away and start our examination to find out what is causing their pain.  That is when we sometimes find an odd situation…..the person has terrible neck pain but they have no problem moving their neck. This terribly painful neck can actually move in all directions without increasing their pain.  When we press on their muscles and joints we find no tender or pain spots on their neck either. But, they still feel pain in their neck. Even more surprising the pain came on out of the blue with no obvious activity or injury that is likely to have caused it. They have a mystery pain.

The same can be true of the other areas of the body: a person will complain of upper or lower back pain, but that area has no painful spots over the muscles or joints. These people are worried as to what is wrong and turn to us to solve their “mystery pain”.

Some common causes of mysterious neck pains

We start first with an examination. We check blood pressure, and listen for any problems with circulation in the neck area to rule out a  dangerous circulatory problem.

Then we look at not only how much you can freely move your neck, but we also feel how each pair of spinal joints is moving individually. Each bone and joint should have its own smooth motion, pliability and freedom to move.

Next we check all the neck muscles that that we know but that the average person may not. Sometimes all these things are OK. Then we look farther afield for the cause.

One of the most common causes of pain radiating to the neck is a trigger point in the trapezius muscle. The trapezius muscle covers a large area and moves many joints in various directions. The trapezius muscle attaches along the spine from the neck all the way down to the lower mid back. It also wraps around to the collar bone and its mid portion gives your upper “shoulder” area its shape. 

A trigger point in either the mid portion of the trapezius by the shoulder blade, or the lower portion farther down your back can refer pain to the neck. This means that the cause of pain is not in the neck, it is in the mid back. Clearing the trigger point, stops the neck pain.

Another cause of neck mystery pain: postural imbalances

These imbalances can occur anywhere from your feet on up to your head. When you have dropped arches, it changes how your weight is born on your spine, including causing a humped back and head forward posture. When your head sits forward of your body instead of being balanced over your shoulders, it causes neck pain, especially at the base of your neck. This pain can be sharp and burning.

Mysterious Upper Back Pain Causes

Just as trigger points in the mid back can cause neck pains, trigger points in the neck, shoulder or even front of your abdomen can cause upper to mid back pains.

Rib problems can also cause pains in this area. Ribs should move up and down in a “bucket handle” motion with every breath. When one or more do not move as they should, they can cause a lot of pain.

Often people will wonder if they are having a heart attack from these kinds of pain. Once an EKG reassures them the pain is not coming from their heart, they are still left with the mystery pain.

We need to check not only the back part of the rib, but also all the way around to where the rib attaches to the breastbone. By correcting the rib motion, with the proper chiropractic adjustment, we solve the mystery pain.

Just as with neck pains, poor posture habits can also cause upper back and mid back pains.

Treatments for the neck and upper back mystery pains

When a trigger point is actively causing pain, treatment can include:

  • chiropractic adjustments,
  • hands on muscle therapies,
  • ultrasound therapy and
  • muscle balancing Foundation Training exercises.

Avoiding the trigger point “triggers” of stress, cold, nicotine, and caffeine and muscle over use can also helps for long term recovery. Trigger points seldom respond to pain medications or muscle relaxers.

Rib problems are treated with chiropractic adjustments.

Postural imbalances can be treated with:

  • orthotics if fallen arches or other foot imbalances are the cause.
  • proper exercises to stretch tight muscles and strengthen weak muscles such as the Foundation training exercises
  • learning proper ergonomic positions for work, home and exercise and sports goes a long way as well.
Do You Have A Mystery Pain?

If you have a mystery pain, give us a call. We may be able to solve the mystery of your pain and offer you a solution for a better healthier life as well.