Veterans back pain is one of the many physical and mental consequences suffered by the multitude of men and women who have served in the armed forces throughout the world. Veterans most often are eligible to receive free healthcare for life, from specialized government medical facilities. However, the quality of this care is suspect in many cases and is downright substandard in others. I have yet to see a veteran’s facility which truly matches a comparative private medical center. This is a crime and is no way to reward a soldier for their dedicated service.
This essay provides guidance for military veterans who suffer chronic back pain and have now left active service.
I get a tremendous number of letters and emails from vets who have proudly served in armed conflicts and are now stricken with the ravages of chronic back pain.
In some cases, these veterans suffered a wound or injury during active service which is currently being blamed for sourcing their symptoms. In other cases, the simple wear and tear of military life is blamed for the present expression. In some patients, these theories may be correct. However, in many others, this is an unenlightened and incorrect diagnostic theory, since there are typically other possible answers for why a person continues to have pain months, years or even decades after a suspected causative incident.
Veterans are one of the most affected demographics for all forms of chronic pain, depression and other possible mindbody disorders. When I receive a letter in which the symptoms just do not seem to jive with the diagnosis, I often consider the possibility that they are actually suffering from ischemia linked to a psychosomatic process.
Veterans, and anyone who has seen violent conflict up close and personal, are always scarred by their experiences. Some people are consciously aware of this emotional damage, while others repress or actively suppress it. Even the most hardened soldier carries memories which may bring them to tears given the right circumstances.
All this psychoemotional turmoil, anguish and pain brews up the ideal scenario for psychosomatic back pain to exist. This is not to say that vets can not experience back pain due to structural issues, for of course, they can. However, in these purely anatomical scenarios, treatment is usually effective and grants lasting relief from the symptoms. I have found this to be true in all but the worst injurious circumstances.
Many former soldiers will not even consider the possibility that their pain may be psychologically-induced, as this has been beaten into them (sometimes literally) as a sign of weakness. In fact, mindbody conditions are universal among humans and no amount of training, discipline or hardheartedness will make anyone immune.
In this regard, I certainly have first hand experience. The life of a professional martial artist is strikingly similar in regards to discipline and Spartan philosophy as a military existence. So many fighters are conditioned to feel no pain and have no mercy, yet there is no denying that these emotions are present nonetheless. I am living proof. Over 43 years of martial arts and I still admit to having at least a partial mindbody source for much of my pain… conditioning, training and discipline notwithstanding.
Remember that I am always trying to help. The goal of my writing is never to belittle or undermine anyone’s belief system. In fact, I do everything possible to respect all possible reasons for back pain and detail them in full, based on my own vast experiences working with tens of thousands of patients each year.
I am amazed how many vets never even consider that their pain may be related to non-structural issues stemming from years of physical and emotional torture. Many vets write in saying that they doubt what they have been told all along by their doctors, but have never found the opportunity to think outside the small boxes these very same doctors have forced them into. It is a shame.
For these veterans, I hope to open a new world of possibilities to explain why they have never found a cure for their back pain, despite numerous attempts and often, multiple failed surgeries.