Back pain with normal MRI

I keep having back pain in between my shoulder blades and sometimes in the base of my neck. Any suggestions for getting an actual diagnosis? They referred me to physical therapy but anytime I bend over, it seems to get aggravated.

I had something similar for several years.

We changed our quonset sliding doors you had to grab the handle and shove sideways to overhead ones,
No matter how well adjusted the sliding doors, it still was an ergonomically bad effort.
Once now doors you open by running a chain up or down on the side, surprise, never again had that at times serious pain.
I have on that spot two collapsed vertebrae and had a broken rib.
That was an old injury as a ten year old in gymnastics, that didn’t bother ever again, except when I had to open those doors, as I finally figured out.
Doesn’t bother any more without the sliders on the barn.

You may want to also examine what you may be doing that is causing or enhancing that pain and change that, if you can.


I second looking for anything ergonomic that could be causing the pain. Do you work in front of a computer, is your desk/chair/monitor setup to keep you sitting tall and straight or hunched towards your screen?

A past injury plus working at a computer all day causes pretty bad back pain for me, it can easily be so bad I can’t sleep. Regular chiro and being very aware of my movements has helped a ton and I’m almost pain free. For me twisting is the worst so moving heavy objects or dumping water buckets etc I have to make really sure that I’m not twisting my back.

A lot of times for this type of pain there is no “diagnosis” I would go to PT and keep up with all of the strengthening exercises they want you to do at home. Find a good chiro who does drop table adjustments. Look at everything you do to see if something is causing it. Old couch where you sit to watch tv, old mattress, work setup, hobby setup etc.

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I struggled with recurrent back spasms for years. It was all in the muscles. I fixed it over time with improving my posture, doing yoga, staying fit, stretching, and therapeutic massage regularly. The triggers were long commutes in the car, bad posture, and new physical work.

With no commutes for 2 years and daily self board barn chores, I haven’t had issues for several years now. I also have some stretches to do when I feel pain starting up.


Have you had any massage therapy? My husband has pain like that, and his therapist works hard to release his pectoral muscles in the front. Often when you get chronic pain, it’s because the opposite muscle group is tense/clenched and pulling on the other side.

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Have you gone to PT yet? A good PT should be able to help diagnose your issue. The negative MRI only rules out certain things but most muscular issues wouldn’t show in an MRI.


If what you describe is muscular or pinched nerves, you can release it yourself and I do this whenever things get tight/wonky/painful. Especially at my shoulder blades and back. Even had a recent experience where I stood up in the middle of the night and it was like my hip had gone out of socket. Could hardly walk. That painful.

When I got up in the morning first thing I did was get down on my butt, cross that leg over and lay into my hip w the pink rubber ball and found the spot and OMG did it hurt to lay my weight into it. Did that as long as I could - maybe a minute. Voila. Pain gone. Gone. Has not returned.

It’s worth a try. For shoulders/back/etc put the ball between you and a wall and roll around and find hot spots -pain - and lay into it and roll and release the tissue. Years ago I found the Sock Doc and this video and have never needed pro massage since then.


This definitely sounds muscular/postural to me. Pt likely can help - it’s possible that an old injury has change the way you use yourself and it’s catching up with you.

I don’t disagree that these treatments can make you feel better - but for anyone that has had pain enough to warrant an MRI - go do the PT that was prescribed. A big part of their job is to figure out what is wrong with you and not just help you relieve the pain or “release” the tension, but to help you learn how to avoid the problem again.

I’ve been seeing a PT for preventative sports issues for months, and he is amazing. He can find every trigger point in your muscles and not only help relieve them, but then with discussion can tell you why it probably happened, how to continue the therapy at home, and gives pre-workout stretching routines and strength building exercises so you don’t have the issue again.

Not all PTs are equal, but get recommendations and at least go for diagnosis and some treatment and see how it feels.

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Last year I had lower back pain that was crippling. I had additional symptoms of nerve pain in my legs and feet. Relatively clean MRIs, x rays and ultrasounds. PT was not helpful for me for the back pain but the exercises I learned were good anyways.

My neurologist sent me to a pain management dr and they picked the most questionable joint from my films and injected it. Diagnosis by treatment. Even though my SI looked “ok” on the images, injecting it relieved all symptoms and quickly.

Hope you find relief!

ETA- my vertebrae / discs in my upper back looked worse (by far) on my MRI but since that area wasn’t giving me much trouble we didn’t do anything there. I do some of my PT stretches that target that area pretty regularly to try and keep those muscles limber.

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Thanks for that link @PaddockWood I am going to watch it later as it can help me with my left shoulder!!

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I agree a good PT is priceless. Found one for my cystocele hernia and saw her 12 times and worth every penny and it was expensive. Really valued her watching me do exercises and correcting my form. Have even thought of going back now that it’s been a couple years and get coached again. Just one session maybe. To correct sloppy form that has probably crept in.

What I love about my pink rubber ball is anywhere I get tight I’m able to release and that is so valuable. 25 yrs ago or so all of a sudden I couldn’t lift my arm over my head. Went to a Sports Med Ortho and he immed said rotator cuff and need surgery. No mention of bodywork.

By chance was getting a massage a few days later and in passing mentioned what was up. She worked on my shoulder blades and it hurt so damn bad - the same areas the Soc Doc talks about. And do you know it all released and my arm worked just fine the next day. Never went back to that doc. Never needed to. Bodywork is amazing.

I’m so curious if you get relief. Do you have a hard ball to work with? Just start up against a wall and roll until you find the pain and roll back and forth as long as you can stand it. Maybe need to do a few days in a row but I’ve been healed every time.

I haven’t had time to watch it yet. I had my right shoulder replaced as it was bone on bone but while my left is bad it isn’t as bad but can cause me some serious discomfort at times. I guess they consider it Osteoarthritis?

It is painful to do certain things but doesn’t hurt when I am not doing the " wrong" thing. Interestingly cutting most carbs ( in all forms) from my diet has made a huge difference but exercises help too. I should be able to watch it tomorrow.

I’ve had Airrosti sessions for an arm issue, and they had me use a (very hard) lacrosse ball for similar exercises. It did help, and I still do these exercises as needed.

I purchased the ball for a few dollars from the therapist; they’re available at Academy. Mine has lasted me for years.

I found Airrosti to be very helpful for a few different pain and/or function issues: