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Upper back/neck pain advice

elle31 Member Posts: 1 Listener
I'm not sure if this is the right group or if this even counts as chronic pain but basically I have had pain in my upper back/neck to the right of my spine for as long as I can remember, it isn't constantly painful, but I do have to avoid doing certain things or walking for an extended amount of time. I'm a full time student and the parking is very limited and expensive so I have to park far away which combined with carrying my laptop and heavy textbooks it puts me in a great deal of pain. 

My first question is is this chronic pain? I'm not sure if it counts as chronic because it isn't all the time, when I'm not at uni I maybe have bad pain every other day for no more than an hour, and during the semester it is pretty much everyday for several hours, but not the whole day. I had physiotherapy briefly when I was about 12/13 (currently 19), the physiotherapist said it was caused by overdeveloped shoulder muscles, and as far as I'm aware that's the only cause for the pain, so no injury/disease/etc. 

Also, am I entitled to anything? I'm kind of struggling financially because my university doesn't provide travel allowance based on distance and my bursary is barely enough to cover petrol and isn't enough for a bus pass either. So if I am entitled to anything who do I go to? I have been to my GP before but nothing was mentioned, however I was under 16 so should I go again? Or should I go to my university directly or is it a council sort of thing? 

And also, should I inform my employer? As I said it's just something I've always lived with so didn't mention when I applied for the job. It doesn't particularly affect my job, because standing for long periods doesn't seem to cause pain, but other job roles do cause pain so I avoid working in that department. I'm worried if I don't have anything official to back me up they'll take is as me trying to avoid working. Another issue with my job is I have to get the bus because it's too expensive to park in town. If it weren't for my back I could easily walk, it's only 1.5 miles away if that but I know by the time I get to work I will be in a lot of pain and will have to spend the rest of the day like that, because I need to be sitting/lying down for it to go away. 

Sorry this is super long I just really have no idea what to do because surely I have some options, but all of the information on the internet is really confusing and often vague (there is literally four sentences on the PIP website about back pain). Any advice at all would be hugely appreciated because I am just totally lost


  • ncps
    ncps Member Posts: 30 Courageous
    @elle31 hello, I run Northamptonshire Chronic pain Support. From the details you have written then you do have Chronic pain,it does not have to be constant. It is quite usual to have 'flare ups' which means at times our pain is worse than others. If you have pain that lasts longer than 6months and affects your quality of life, it's Chronic pain.

    Some people who have Chronic pain find that there appears to be no reason for the such as an injury or diagnosis but this does not make it hurt any less.

    Chronic pain can be very isolating, life changing and hard to explain. If you would like to talk to someone with Chronic pain have a look at my web website. Www.ncpsuk.com


    Northants chronic pain support


  • ClaireSaul
    ClaireSaul Member Posts: 92 Pioneering
    Hi @elle31- firstly please do not apologise for the length of your post!  I am so sorry that you are struggling.
    I can't tell give you a definitive medical diagnosis here......but it does sound like you have chronic pain.  The definition of chronic pain varies and it seems that medics all follow different variations - a general description (in my humble opinion) is pain that persists for over 3 months (it used to be 6 months) - if it is a result of an injury this will persist beyond the healing time of 6 - 12 weeks, but for so many like yourself there has been no injury.  
    I was having very similar pains at your age and my teen does now - we have a connective tissue disorder.  Have you ever pursued the physio's comment about your shoulder muscle with a doctor and possible reasons for this?  Have you ever had a dislocation?
    I stongly advise you to return to your GP and explain what has been going on  - they need to be your first point of contact for any referrals for help.

    With regards to university - have you spoken to your tutor or head of pastoral care?  Most universities have good pastoral care teams and help is available, but it has to be asked for (we discovered this the hard way with my own son who was eligible for and needed help, but failed to tell anyone he had a problem until it was almost too late).  Do you currently receive a bursary from the university in addition to you student maintenance loan?  You will already know that the student maintenance loan is means tested, so depending upon family circumstances you might be eligible for the higher level (what was the student grant) and this automatically makes you eligible for a bursary from the uni.  Many universities have additional awards so it might be worth a visit to the finance office.

    If your GP is supportive and recognises that you have ongoing, persistent pain, it is worth looking into a blue badge application so that you don't have to park so far away.  You need to apply to your local authority and whilst there are some automatic qualifiers (eg being in receipt of certain benefits, being blind) it is also possible to qualify if you have considerable difficulty walking due for instance pain or breathing problems.  Have a look at these: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/197719/can-i-get-a-blue-badge.pdf and https://www.gov.uk/apply-blue-badge.

    With regards to your job do you have a manager who you feel you can talk to?  Obviously it may not be possible to keep it off the record.  Maybe ask your GP for advise re how much you should tell work, but if there are tasks that could increase your symptoms, I would think that it is in everyone's interests to keep you as fit and healthy as possible.

    Information about chronic pain can appear to be very vague and I think this is generally because there will never be two people who experience exactly the same symptoms - we are all different and our pain will flare with different triggers and to varying degrees.  But that does not make one person's pain any more or less than another's.  Back pain well and truly falls into this category too (this is my "main" chronic pain....I have written about it on my blog).

    As @ncps says pain is very isolating, even when you are surrounded by people but you do have options.  Please make that GP appointment and it might be that they can refer you to a pain clinic or pain control programme.  I hope that I have covered everything - my post is even longer.

    Best wishes, Claire x
    Claire Saul
    Chronic Pain Advisor
    [email protected]


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