Salute to Veterans: Chronic Back Pain

Veterans Day holds a special place in the hearts of all Americans. At the National Spine Health Foundation, we have a real concern specifically for veterans who suffer from chronic back pain. According to the Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, spinal issues are a leading cause of disability for the veteran population. Back pain in veterans is a huge issue that needs addressing — and we are doing just that.

It makes sense, given the responsibility of lifting heavy loads, taking treacherous pathways and generally putting the body under stress. Chronic stress and trauma to the spine can cause lifelong problems.

This Veterans Day, we want to honor those thousands of individuals who devoted their lives to protecting our country and in turn, sacrificed their bodies. We’ve been fortunate enough to speak with several of them in our work and want to share a few of those stories with you today.

David’s Story

Seventy-two-year-old David M. is retired from the military and didn’t experience any issues until later in life. What began with a little numbness ended up in a successful surgery, after which he had this to say:

“The operation was an amazing success. I’m back in the gym, back on the golf course, and back on the tennis court. Believe it or not, my tennis game is even improved – maybe because of increased flexibility. I have also returned to my other volunteer activities. And, yes, I can look at the ceiling without consequence.”

Robin’s Story

Robin S. is another veteran who has dealt with back pain. She served as a Navy Pilot for many years before sustaining a career-ending back injury while competing in a Triathlon. Her pain was so intense she could barely drive in the car for 5 minutes and feared she may never be able to have kids. That fear is very real for so many people who suffer debilitating injuries, but with a plan in place, there is hope.

After undergoing surgery at Virginia Spine Institute, Robin is back to living an active life as a new mom! Her story is incredibly inspiring and we are grateful to call her a Spinal Champion®!

Aaron’s Story

Aaron shared his story with us in a recent issue of the Spine Health Journal: “In 2006, I was an infantry officer at Fort Campbell, KY in the 101st Airborne Division. I considered myself in pretty good physical shape without any health issues. One day everything was as it should be, waking up early, doing physical training (PT) and working. The next day I woke up in excruciating pain in my back. It was completely unexpected. I went to work but was not able to conduct PT. Instead, I had a sergeant drive me to the emergency room where I had X-Rays and MRIs and was assigned a doctor who dealt only with spine issues. I was given pain killers and muscle relaxers just to survive and was diagnosed with degenerative disc disease.

…I suffered for seven long years before seeking help. I wish I had done it sooner. I was scared of surgery and it seems so silly now. I have my life back now. If spinal fusion is what is recommended by your medical team, I would trust them and go into it eagerly. I hope this helps others decide to do it sooner rather than later. There is no sense in suffering.”

These are just three stories out of many — and we are privileged to share them with you. Chronic back pain in veterans can make it hard for them to stay employed. Our commitment to finding solutions and treatments that work for some our nation’s most cherished citizens is uplifted even more on this sacred day.

Innovative Ways our Research Can Help

  • Artificial Disc Replacement
  • Robotic Surgery
  • Bone Morphogenetic Protein
  • Neuromodulation

Learn more about our research projects here.