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BadBender
12-14-2012, 05:26 AM
I've been on these forums for a few years now and would like to hear your thoughts on a medical situation I'm in right now. I've been in for over 14 years now. On a deployment this summer to the sand box I was lifting some equipment and "thought" I pulled a muscle in my back, or possibly knocked myself out of alignment. I went to the clinic there and got some kick butt strong pain meds to get me through the deployment. As time went on my right leg was tingling, then it felt like someone was squeezing my calf, the pain got worse but not unbearable. When I got back stateside I met with my PCM and had a MRI done. Well the results were surprising to me. Turns out I have little to no cartridge left in my L4/L5 vertebra (those are the ones right next to your tail bone that carry all the weight of your torso). The disk is bulging out and pinching the nerve which is what is causing the pain/numbness and what not. I saw a civilian back doctor and he said I need surgery. He seemed to know much about it and explained it very well to me. I am going to get a second opinion just to be safe.

My PCM ( a active duty Captain) said there is a 50/50 chance I'll be back in 5 years for the same thing. Here's my concern, and it may seem odd to most folks. I passed my last PT test with a 93. I've always passed it and it wasn't easy. I credit my dislike of chow hall food on my last deployment to my smaller waist line and subsequently faster run time. I am concerned that, given this particular injury, it's location and all, that I won't be able to do much to prepare for this next test towards the second half of next year. I'm on a profile now (the Doc was surprised I wasn't already on one when the MRI results came in) that says no sit ups, pushups or running more than 100 yards. It expires soon but I expect it'll be renewed with no problem.

So, with this groups vast experience and knowledge, what can I expect?

OtisRNeedleman
12-14-2012, 05:29 AM
Unless your PCM is an orthopedic surgeon take what he says with a grain of salt. Don't worry about the PT. Just get your profile, do the PT when you can, and take care of yourself so you can live the rest of your life after Big Blue shits you out.

VFFTSGT
12-14-2012, 05:36 AM
I've been on these forums for a few years now and would like to hear your thoughts on a medical situation I'm in right now. I've been in for over 14 years now. On a deployment this summer to the sand box I was lifting some equipment and "thought" I pulled a muscle in my back, or possibly knocked myself out of alignment. I went to the clinic there and got some kick butt strong pain meds to get me through the deployment. As time went on my right leg was tingling, then it felt like someone was squeezing my calf, the pain got worse but not unbearable. When I got back stateside I met with my PCM and had a MRI done. Well the results were surprising to me. Turns out I have little to no cartridge left in my L4/L5 vertebra (those are the ones right next to your tail bone that carry all the weight of your torso). The disk is bulging out and pinching the nerve which is what is causing the pain/numbness and what not. I saw a civilian back doctor and he said I need surgery. He seemed to know much about it and explained it very well to me. I am going to get a second opinion just to be safe.

My PCM ( a active duty Captain) said there is a 50/50 chance I'll be back in 5 years for the same thing. Here's my concern, and it may seem odd to most folks. I passed my last PT test with a 93. I've always passed it and it wasn't easy. I credit my dislike of chow hall food on my last deployment to my smaller waist line and subsequently faster run time. I am concerned that, given this particular injury, it's location and all, that I won't be able to do much to prepare for this next test towards the second half of next year. I'm on a profile now (the Doc was surprised I wasn't already on one when the MRI results came in) that says no sit ups, pushups or running more than 100 yards. It expires soon but I expect it'll be renewed with no problem.

So, with this groups vast experience and knowledge, what can I expect?


Always get a second opinion with something this major. And do your own research as well.

NEVER trust a PCM, especially one employed by the US Air Force. There are too many stories of borderline malpractice on here - including mine.

CrustySMSgt
12-14-2012, 05:45 AM
Unless your PCM is an orthopedic surgeon take what he says with a grain of salt. Don't worry about the PT. Just get your profile, do the PT when you can, and take care of yourself so you can live the rest of your life after Big Blue shits you out.

+1!!

Service before self & excellence in all you do isn't going to make the chronic pain go away after you retire; PT should be the last of your concerns. Get the profile and get with the docs/HAWC to see what you CAN do... seems like you should still be able to do something low impact for cardio. But don't tough it out just to do well on your PT. Make sure your condition and treatment is thouroughly documented and your CoC is in the loop, so if something came up, you don't have to backbrief them and do damage control.

Sounds like you're on the right track; just don't settle for being told no, we can't, or tough shit, suck it up.

BadBender
12-14-2012, 05:59 AM
VFFTSGT, I've been following your stories since you were VFFSSGT, when you discussed your problems. I have been researching my problem and it seems to be a common thing for major league football players and military members. From what I've found it seems to be caused, in part, from (and I'm not kidding here) sit ups on hard surfaces, running on hard surfaces, the types of push-ups we are required to do, lifting heavy things over time and carrying heavy loads on the torso (like body armor/ammo). I've been doing squadron led PT since 2002, two years before it was mandatory for the rest of the AF, ten years now. I'm a tall guy and always knew I was at risk for this but did not anticipate how much it actually hurt and what it could mean to my career. The drugs they have me on keep me good until just past lunch time (day shift) but soon after that it's hard to deal with. I'd like to know what happens now. Is a MEB THAT bad? What does that mean anyways? I've heard people try to avoid it like the plague. Is it that bad? I have not been able to find reliable answers to this thus far.

VFFTSGT
12-14-2012, 06:44 AM
I was one that avoided a MEB like the plague...I think they are just too subjective and too much left up to the opinions of a select few.

One was a permanent running profile. I refused to accept it. The other was profiles in general; I tried to stay off of them as much as possible.

However, a guy at my last base had back issues such as yours. I think very similar problems. He had to get the surgery - fused together. He got a MEB and was cleared....his pain was bad enough to have to risk the MEB.

Bottom line, you got to do all the research and make the best decision for your personal case.

CrustySMSgt
12-14-2012, 07:04 AM
VFFTSGT, I've been following your stories since you were VFFSSGT, when you discussed your problems. I have been researching my problem and it seems to be a common thing for major league football players and military members. From what I've found it seems to be caused, in part, from (and I'm not kidding here) sit ups on hard surfaces, running on hard surfaces, the types of push-ups we are required to do, lifting heavy things over time and carrying heavy loads on the torso (like body armor/ammo). I've been doing squadron led PT since 2002, two years before it was mandatory for the rest of the AF, ten years now. I'm a tall guy and always knew I was at risk for this but did not anticipate how much it actually hurt and what it could mean to my career. The drugs they have me on keep me good until just past lunch time (day shift) but soon after that it's hard to deal with. I'd like to know what happens now. Is a MEB THAT bad? What does that mean anyways? I've heard people try to avoid it like the plague. Is it that bad? I have not been able to find reliable answers to this thus far.

An MEB is a med board that determines your ability to continue to serve. Could be good or bad. If you want to get out, it'd be good; if not, not so much. I hope the incident "trigger" is documented as being duty related. Seems like it wouldn't be too difficult to tie it to being service related, which could result in medical retirement, versus medical separation.

Most important thing is to not just keep popping pain pills and ignoring the problem, making it worse. While you may love the Air Force, being in pain the rest of your life isn't worth it.

CrustySMSgt
12-14-2012, 07:06 AM
However, a guy at my last base had back issues such as yours. I think very similar problems. He had to get the surgery - fused together. He got a MEB and was cleared....his pain was bad enough to have to risk the MEB.



Not sure I understand what you mean here. He's in pain, but the MEB cleared him for duty. Not sure what the risk is...?

VFFTSGT
12-14-2012, 08:26 AM
Not sure I understand what you mean here. He's in pain, but the MEB cleared him for duty. Not sure what the risk is...?

He had back surgery...2 disc fused together...once you do that, you can no longer do certain things...that is what caused the MED.

Measure Man
12-14-2012, 03:18 PM
Unless your PCM is an orthopedic surgeon take what he says with a grain of salt. Don't worry about the PT. Just get your profile, do the PT when you can, and take care of yourself so you can live the rest of your life after Big Blue shits you out.

^^ What he said.

DWWSWWD
12-14-2012, 03:47 PM
One thing at a time. You need the surgery. Get the surgery. Do what the Doc says to get better. Re-evaluate. I had the same thing. My surgery was an L5-S1 discectomy. I've know at least a dozen people to have this. It's pretty common in Airborne units. Stress from 100s of jumps, rucking, fastroping etc. Compresses the disc, squeezes it out into the sciatic nerve. All of the folks that I know returned to duty. None were MEB'd. Never known anyone to permanently jack up their back from doing push-ups or Buns of Steel. Good luck.

Greg
12-14-2012, 04:10 PM
ICE, ICE, ICE! I have a blue gel-bag that's good for heat (microwave) and cold (freezer), I highly recommend one.
I wrap a towel around the blue bag and hold it in place with one of my back braces.
I usually get by with one 800mg. ibuprofen in the morning because of this liberal application of cold.

Drackore
12-14-2012, 09:22 PM
Same boat as you. Almost thought I was reading a story about me.

My docs and the pain clinic docs and the specialists and everyone think this will go away on its own. It's been almost 2 years now. They kept throwing pain pills and profiles at me.

Finally went to the HAWC to see the exercise physiologist (that no one told me about) and she's got me on a kick ass plan. Lost almost 20 lbs since August and am mobile again. We're actually going to start a run routine to see if I can run again. The plan - get me back in shape either through a specialized exercise program, or make it bad enough that they HAVE to operate (which they keep avoiding at all costs it seems).

Stay on top of it and do what YOU HAVE TO DO. Elevate it, get your leadership on your side, etc...but never assume they are taking care of you. They aren't.

WeaponsTSGT
12-16-2012, 07:13 PM
I've been on these forums for a few years now and would like to hear your thoughts on a medical situation I'm in right now. I've been in for over 14 years now. On a deployment this summer to the sand box I was lifting some equipment and "thought" I pulled a muscle in my back, or possibly knocked myself out of alignment. I went to the clinic there and got some kick butt strong pain meds to get me through the deployment. As time went on my right leg was tingling, then it felt like someone was squeezing my calf, the pain got worse but not unbearable. When I got back stateside I met with my PCM and had a MRI done. Well the results were surprising to me. Turns out I have little to no cartridge left in my L4/L5 vertebra (those are the ones right next to your tail bone that carry all the weight of your torso). The disk is bulging out and pinching the nerve which is what is causing the pain/numbness and what not. I saw a civilian back doctor and he said I need surgery. He seemed to know much about it and explained it very well to me. I am going to get a second opinion just to be safe.

My PCM ( a active duty Captain) said there is a 50/50 chance I'll be back in 5 years for the same thing. Here's my concern, and it may seem odd to most folks. I passed my last PT test with a 93. I've always passed it and it wasn't easy. I credit my dislike of chow hall food on my last deployment to my smaller waist line and subsequently faster run time. I am concerned that, given this particular injury, it's location and all, that I won't be able to do much to prepare for this next test towards the second half of next year. I'm on a profile now (the Doc was surprised I wasn't already on one when the MRI results came in) that says no sit ups, pushups or running more than 100 yards. It expires soon but I expect it'll be renewed with no problem.

So, with this groups vast experience and knowledge, what can I expect?

My situation is almost identical it's just 4 years down the road. In 2008 I was 34 and winning regional triathlons with plans on competing in the armed forces triathlon, I had just gotten my run time under 9:30 and was in the best shape of my life when my back issues started. Over the last four years I've had several steroid injections, nerve blocks, several bouts of PT, water therapy, traction and Monday I will be having my fourth back surgery at L4/L5/S1(microdisc, laminectomy, decompression). Per my PCM there can not be an MEB initiated until you are stable and per my PCM I am not stable, so I have had this problem for four years missed several months of work and will be sewing on MSgt Jan 1st and have yet to be submitted for an MEB.

I will tell you in my situation none of the surgeries have worked and I was told that if this one doesn't take that there are no other surgeries that can be performed for my issues, one of the previous surgeries caused nerve damage and now it's fairly difficult to walk. Get a second opinion from a neurosurgeon not an orthopedic surgeon and see if there is anything else you can do. Once you do surgery there is no looking back, also read up because microdiscectomy which it sounds like is what they want to do doesn't have a high success rate. You might be a candidate for ADR (artificial disc replacement), I am not due to the previous surgeries. Yeah make sure you educate yourself and speak with someone else. Your health is first but I'm guessing you are also trying to reach your 20 year mark.

WeaponsTSGT
12-16-2012, 07:15 PM
ICE, ICE, ICE! I have a blue gel-bag that's good for heat (microwave) and cold (freezer), I highly recommend one.
I wrap a towel around the blue bag and hold it in place with one of my back braces.
I usually get by with one 800mg. ibuprofen in the morning because of this liberal application of cold.

This will do absolutely nothing for a herniated disc impinging on the nerve root except make the back muscles feel better.

WeaponsTSGT
12-16-2012, 07:21 PM
An MEB is a med board that determines your ability to continue to serve. Could be good or bad. If you want to get out, it'd be good; if not, not so much. I hope the incident "trigger" is documented as being duty related. Seems like it wouldn't be too difficult to tie it to being service related, which could result in medical retirement, versus medical separation.


Not true, however if it was either done in a combat zone or simulated combat then you can double dip from the DoD and VA if you are medically retired. Injuring yourself in the line of duty will get you separated just as easily as if you did it at softball practice there is no benefit. If it was an existing condition when you came in then that is a different story.

Blue Warrior
12-16-2012, 11:02 PM
I have degenerative arthritis in my lower back and my last PT test of my career is tomorrow. Thank God! I'll pop an 800mg Motrin and a power gel, then shoot for a 90 or better, which is what I've gotten the last few years. If I score under a 90, then the next test is due during terminal leave...meaning NO TEST! With my increasing aches and pains I couldn't imagine having to keep doing this PT crap.

RS6405
12-17-2012, 01:05 AM
ICE, ICE, ICE! I have a blue gel-bag that's good for heat (microwave) and cold (freezer), I highly recommend one.
I wrap a towel around the blue bag and hold it in place with one of my back braces.
I usually get by with one 800mg. ibuprofen in the morning because of this liberal application of cold.

Everytime I come across this post Greg, I think you are about to break out in song. lol

Robert F. Dorr
12-17-2012, 01:19 AM
You think you've got a medical problem. Those of us who live around here have lost our Cox.

Greg
12-17-2012, 01:33 AM
This will do absolutely nothing for a herniated disc impinging on the nerve root except make the back muscles feel better.

Well yes, unless you're a fan of the wearing away of the esophagus and stomach linings, ulcers, acid reflux, and other affects of over-use of meds.

DaveIn3D
12-17-2012, 02:04 AM
Same story for me in osan 2003. Something was pinching my nerve and it was jacking me up bad. I had to go to the E.R. 4 different times because of the pain creeping up my leg was so bad that at one point i went 4 days without sleep. My roomate dragged me to the hospital where they laughed at me. They asked what my pain lever is on a scale of 1-10. I told them 8. They told me I should be in a coma if that were the case. I politely told one dude to go fuck himself and asked why they even ask the question. I couldnt sit down the entire time and my roomate was holding me up. I ended up just leaving. 3 weeks and 3 visits for nothing later, they finally referred me to a korean hospital for an MRI. After getting the pics, the korean docs tried to admit me. Said I had a ruptured disc. They called base and base told them no. When the military guys saw the MRI, they referred me to physical therapy. I have to assume the military guys were right and the koreans were wrong because physical therapy worked. Did some stretches, continued to self-medicate with alcohol ( even for korea standards...i was drinking alot) and the issue almost completely went away. I still have issues with how my right foot strikes the ground when running because of that injury but hell, made it into the Marines, and even with excessive amounts of pt, no more major issues.

Hopefully everything works out for you. Good Luck.

-3D

71Fish
12-17-2012, 05:48 AM
I have/had a bulging disk at L5 causing sciatic nerve pain. L5 is the disk connected to the sciatic which is why you have the tingling. I got 2 injections in my back. I was actually better after the 1st injection. That was a few years ago and I've been "good" ever since. I lift, trail run and do Jiu-Jitsu and don't have any problems. If I were you, which obviously I am not, go with th least intrusive act first. Don't do surgery until nothin else works, especially at your young age.

BadBender
12-28-2012, 04:04 AM
Thanks for all the input. Here's kind of an update. I have a 2nd appointment scheduled for early next month and I have been researching it. I checked my email today and received notification that I'm being sent to Korea (specifically Kunsan) in early May. I think I'll still be in recovery mode, should surgery be required. I don't want to "get out" of this assignment because I know someone else will get hit with it but what do you all think? A buddy of mine that is there right now said I might not be medically cleared. Ideas?

Tooltime
12-28-2012, 05:17 AM
Get your Back issue taken care of and don't worry about the assignment to Korea. Kunsan will likely not be able to provide adequate treatment (even if you are medically cleared), and trust me - you do not want to be sent downtown for treatment. I required treatment at Kunsan that was beyond the Clinic's capability, so I was sent downtown and it was not a good experience. It seemed like homeless people used the downtown hospital as a place to wander around in, and I actually had a confrontation with an elderly drunk Korean man who didn't care for Americans. Don't worry, you'll get tagged again for Korea after you're all healed up. If you really want to go, just volunteer after you're feeling better.

BadBender
12-28-2012, 06:30 AM
I wish it was me gaming the system, then I'd understand. Instead it's constant pain that the pain killers can barely keep up with. This hurts like no pain I've felt before. What upsets me is there is nothing I can do about it. Every exercise to strengthen the core or run faster only makes it worse. I pray you never have to feel this way. Any real Chiefs would know this.

Drackore
12-28-2012, 08:45 PM
I know it brother. When I got to the unit I am with now (last year), everyone was understanding. A few months ago we got all new leadership and I went through the ringer as to why I didn't go to unit PT. Now they are understanding, but it had its heartaches. Now we are getting a new unit CC and I know the process will start all over again.

Rizzo77
12-28-2012, 08:49 PM
I'd say I have sympathy pains, except that they are real. As others have stated before, you are not alone. Even as I sit here typing this, my back is killing me after a morning of wood cutting and tree hauling. What once seemed like a good idea (jumping from planes - 78 times, traipsing throught the woods with a 65 pound rucksack, running long distances, etc.) is paying me back in a not so nice way. I have the common injury - compressed disks at the L4/L5 and L5/S1 with nerve damage and oftentimes debilitating sciatica.

I went through all the typical diagnoses and treatments: years of seeing medics, doctors, specialists and technicians. X-rays, MRIs and CAT scans (the cat was okay - meow). I did physical therapy, had acupuncture, traction, steroid injections, and much more. On one visit to a Special Forces physician assistant, he told me it was common and was the cause of the sciatica. He asked me if I intended to stay in the Army; I said yes. "Well, your back is gonna hurt." No shit. At least he was honest.

So anyway...if two or more specialists recommend surgery, that is almost certainly your best course of action. I was always advised that it was the last thing I wanted to have done, but I would have taken the plunge if it were suggested. Get the surgery, and don't worry about the nay-sayers. If anyone talks bad about a profile or change in assignment, just look them in the eye and say "Alright, smartass. Let me stick a knife in YOUR spine, and then we'll talk."

I'm all for modern medicine; if surgery can relieve your pain, I'd do it.

Measure Man
12-28-2012, 08:55 PM
Thanks for all the input. Here's kind of an update. I have a 2nd appointment scheduled for early next month and I have been researching it. I checked my email today and received notification that I'm being sent to Korea (specifically Kunsan) in early May. I think I'll still be in recovery mode, should surgery be required. I don't want to "get out" of this assignment because I know someone else will get hit with it but what do you all think? A buddy of mine that is there right now said I might not be medically cleared. Ideas?

Ideas for what?

If you are not medically cleared, you won't be able to go even if you want to.

If you are medically cleared, you'll have to go even if you don't want to.

Not really much you can do

All previous advice stands...just worry about your medical issue and worry about any fall-out later...don't let the potential fall-out drive your medical care.

If someone else has to go to Korea, their number was coming up anyway...they'll handle it. Your number will come up again.

BadBender
12-31-2012, 06:06 AM
Thanks for the advise again. I was thinking the same things too. I just wanted to run it by you all just to be sure I was thinking right. I showed my MRI scans to some in my chain "o" command and they seem understanding. I haven't done any of the "Insanity" themed squadron PT sessions since I got back and no one has given me grief about it yet. Again, thanks for your time and Happy New Year!

BadBender
05-18-2013, 06:59 AM
I apologize for resurrecting an old thread but I do it for the benefit of others that might be facing the same thing. Here’s what happened since the end of December, last year. After talking to the first civilian neurosurgeon, who recommended surgery first, I sought a second opinion. Tricare does allow this. I saw a guy that worked on another member in my squadron and was recommended by him. I am so HAPPY I saw this new doctor! He said surgery is a possibility but he wanted to do a cortisone shot first. Ultimately I got two shots, spread out over 2 ½ months , and they didn’t work so my back wasn’t going to fix itself. I had the surgery about 1 month ago. I walked into the hospital that morning and walked out of the hospital early that afternoon (albeit a little tipsy from the narcotics). ((Ok, the nurse wheeled me out to my truck but I got myself into the passenger seat! )) From there I had the next 30 days of convalescent leave off. My Doctor used the most recent methods in surgery and I’m doing great. I’m not in pain anymore but the middle toes in my right foot are still kinda numb. The Doc said he can’t help that, he could just stop the pain, which he did.

Today was my first day back at work and it went well. I do miss sleeping in late and I miss my beard. . I’m on a profile for a next few months, can’t do standard PT stuff like running/sit-ups/pushups. The Neurosurgeons love/hate military PT programs it seems. They hate it because that type of thing injures plenty of people but they love it because it’s a cash cow for them. That’s what I’ve heard in talking to a few of them, so take it as you will. My Doctor treats mostly the elderly, Soldiers and the occasional Airman.

Because of my (at the time) looming surgery my orders to Korea got cancelled, sorry to the guy that got tapped in my place. Right now I feel good (no pain) and I’m recovering good. It is hard to not be the guy I used to be. I used to lift/carry heavy things but that sort of activity adds up and will haunt you for the rest of your life. Anyways, that’s all for now.