Military back pain is a very common symptomatic expression which may be linked to the physical or psychological demands of active armed forces service. I get many, many letters and emails from active military personnel from all over the world. It never surprises me when these arrive, since being in the armed forces is a challenging and sometimes torturous lifestyle which can play havoc with the mind and body, often enacting a chronic dorsopathy condition.
This essay is dedicated to all the men and women who serve their countries bravely and then must face the horrors of back pain as a result of their military careers.
What is Military Back Pain?
Military personnel live in a constant state of activity and stress. They must prove and re-prove themselves daily, both physically and mentally. Healthcare is often basic or even frowned upon in some units and it is common for injured soldiers not to seek treatment, since this is sometimes considered an act of weakness.
The rigorous demands on the body can certainly take their toll. Constant use and abuse may accelerate the degenerative processes and many of the activities inherent to military service may provide the ideal circumstances for back injury to occur. Herniated discs are certainly one of the very common occurrences related to military careers and active duty deployment.
Psychological Military Back Pain
The armed forces generally also frown upon emotional expressions and soldiers typically repress or actively suppress much of their psychological anguish. This sets the tone for a particular personality type to develop, if it is not already naturally inborn.
This back pain personality is the subject of Dr. John Sarno’s many writings and has been proven to be a causative factor in the development of psychosomatic back pain. It is absolutely crucial to know and understand that psychosomatic pain is no different in its expression than pain due to injury. It exists 100% in the body, and only the emotional causative source differs from a purely anatomical source. In my experience, chronic back pain in military personnel has a very good chance of being fully or partially caused by psychoemotional factors.
Back Pain in the Military
I know it can be really stressful to have a chronic pain condition as an active armed forces operative. Even when soldiers do actively seek care, they are not often provided with the best treatment options available. There is certainly very little choice of therapies and many suffer from premature and unneeded back surgeries due to this fact.
As a long time practitioner and teacher of the martial arts, I fully understand the physical and emotional demands of a highly structured and disciplined lifestyle. I can tell you from first hand experience that this type of life can indeed damage the body and the spirit, enough to cause ongoing and severe pain in many cases. Add to this the possibility that this pain may be career-ending and the stress levels may become too much to bear. I fully understand this seemingly impossible “rock and a hard place” scenario.
I advise all military personnel to learn all they can about their options and try to find relief during time they have away from active duty. Additionally, I suggest that all explore the very real possibility that their pain is partially or completely related to an ischemia syndrome which is inherently linked to the mindbody processes.