Spine pain is a fairly common experience among the general population, and it’s even more prevalent among veterans. While most military members are in good physical shape, lugging around gear and going through physically demanding maneuvers can take a toll on a healthy backbone and its supporting joints, muscles, and nerves. When you factor in possible discomfort due to combat injuries, it’s clear why some veterans have multiple issues with spine pain. Beverly Hills spine surgeons from The Spine Institute explain what veterans can do to manage their pain.
Be Cautious with Pain Medications
For any patient with spine pain, opiates and other pain medications must be prescribed carefully. With veterans, extra care needs to be taken since some strong painkillers can also contribute to issues with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). Veterans also have higher instances of depression and suicidal tendencies than other patients using opiates, which can make relying on pain meds risky. Veterans are more likely to have a better experience with pain medications when:
- They’re made aware it’s a temporary solution so they have realistic expectations
- They understand relief will ultimately depend on accurately diagnosing and treating the source of their pain
- They’re given information on what signs and symptoms to look for that may suggest an addiction is developing
- They’re evaluated for possible issues with depression and anxiety prior to taking pain drugs
Explore Active Physical Therapy Possibilities
When possible, it’s best for veterans to err on the side of caution and limit or avoid the use of pain medications. Since military members are already used to being active, physical therapy solutions that involve exercise tend to be effective for pain management. As is the case with anybody with spine pain, the general recommendation is to start with low-impact activities. Possibilities include:
- Walking daily
- Swimming (as long as overextending strokes are minimized)
- Doing other water-based activities such as water aerobics
- Using a stationary bike or elliptical machine
Once back-supporting muscles become stronger, veterans can step up their routine with doctor approval. A physical therapist or personal trainer can provide additional advice, support, and exercise recommendations for military personnel.
Consider Yoga and Other Controlled-Movement Activities
Yoga may be especially beneficial for veterans living with spine pain. A study of veteran patients with chronic back pain found that most of them reported noticeable improvements after engaging in yoga. Another study involving veterans in a 12-week yoga program found that most of them reported a decrease in discomfort based on pain score assessments. Yoga and similar controlled-movement activities like tai chi and Pilates may benefit veterans by:
- Promoting overall mind-body relaxation
- Decreasing pain levels and the need for pain medications
- Restoring flexibility and increasing mobility
It’s not unusual for veterans returning from combat or service to have emotional health issues. In some situations, these issues can make it difficult to effectively manage spine pain. It’s important for veterans to let their doctor know about underlying emotional issues they may also be undergoing treatment for so medications can be better managed. Also, being aware of such issues can allow doctors to be extra cautious with pain medications and recommend related stress management treatments that may simultaneously alleviate emotional health and spine conditions.
If you’re a veteran who is experiencing chronic spine pain, you may want to consider minimally invasive spinal surgery. Beverly Hills veterans can rely on Dr. Hyun Bae and his team of expert surgeons to help them find relief for their chronic pain. Call The Spine Institute at 310-828-7757 today to schedule an in-person evaluation.