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DRC_WALLY4

Vet With Spine Trouble Needs Info

Question

I am 29, was in the Army from Sep. 15 2001 to Sep. 15 2004. I now have a degenerate spine from top to bottom, with numerous secondary effects such as sciatica, joint degeneration in spine, intractable pain,torn discs, bulged discs, arthritis in spine, scoliosis from changing posture due to pain , arthritis in hip due to scoliosis, a spinal cyst, loss of reflex in arms, sleep disorders and deprivation.

I am wondering what would cause all this while I'm only 29. My brother was diagnosed with gulf war syndrome, and I was wondering if it causes spinal problems too. I have been fighting the VA for 7 years to get pain medicine that works, and I just got back from a physical therapy appointment where I was told that my pain is causing my muscles to fight against each other, and actually damaging my spine more.

I finally got diagnosed with intractable pain after 7 years, but all they want to do is pump me full of antidepressants and antisiezure medicines, even though every time I try them they screw up my thyroid, cause depersonalization, emotion problems, skin rashes and give me the shakes. I can't sleep more than 4 hours, even though I take ambien, and Tylenol pm at the same time.

So I started taking Valerian root from gnc to try to get more sleep and that triggered a false positive on a ud. I asked for a conformation test by a gas spectroscope, but the VA said the test cost to much, and are now screwing me more. The interns in the pain clinic also screwed up a spinal injection, sticking the needle in the wrong spot, and then bending it while it was still in my spine, but the whole procedure was completely different than spinal injections I received in the Army.

I've been tortured by chronic pain the last 7 years and don't know what to do. During this time I graduated from a credited university, maintained a good legal and job record, put in hundreds of hours of community service, and they still screw me every time at the VA.

I have done research and know that intractable pain can be caused by any one of my conditions, but I have 9 and they still make light of it and say my pain isn't justified. I have gone from always getting 240 or above on the pt test, to my muscle strength being in the bottom 10%.

If I can't get this pain taken care of, I am gonna lose my mind. The worst thing is that I have been telling them the exact same things for 7 years and they still try to deny me treatment, even after diagnoses have been made stating what I said to be true.

How do you get help in a situation like this?

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3 answers to this question

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Welcome to Hadit.com

I edited your post for spacing so it is easier to read.

Other's will chime in.

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I am 29, was in the Army from Sep. 15 2001 to Sep. 15 2004. I now have a degenerate spine from top to bottom, with numerous secondary effects such as sciatica, joint degeneration in spine, intractable pain,torn discs, bulged discs, arthritis in spine, scoliosis from changing posture due to pain , arthritis in hip due to scoliosis, a spinal cyst, loss of reflex in arms, sleep disorders and deprivation.

First, are you service-connected for any of these problems?

Being diagnosed with these types of problems at such an early age could very likely be attributable to trauma or injury. A lot of the other conditions could be related to the initial problem/injury.

I am wondering what would cause all this while I'm only 29. My brother was diagnosed with gulf war syndrome, and I was wondering if it causes spinal problems too. I have been fighting the VA for 7 years to get pain medicine that works, and I just got back from a physical therapy appointment where I was told that my pain is causing my muscles to fight against each other, and actually damaging my spine more.

I can't answer for Gulf War Syndrome, as that is usually related to service in the Middle East. Were you deployed there?

The 'muscles fighting each other' is another way to say you may have some serious muscle spasms. It could also be caused by neurological problems. Based on your description of physical problems, it sounds more like you probably had a serious injury earlier on.

I finally got diagnosed with intractable pain after 7 years, but all they want to do is pump me full of antidepressants and antisiezure medicines, even though every time I try them they screw up my thyroid, cause depersonalization, emotion problems, skin rashes and give me the shakes. I can't sleep more than 4 hours, even though I take ambien, and Tylenol pm at the same time.

The VA is not known for brilliant solutions to chronic or intractable pain. It is more of a trial and error approach. Physical therapy is helpful, but not always a guaranteed solution. It has helped me to strengthen some muscle groups, use my head before using my body to perform common tasks, and even learn how to walk again. The one thing that PT did for me was to issue a TENS unit. I have received good results, but not everyone will benefit from the same solution. The medications often have unwanted side effects. This is where the trial and error approach comes into play. They may adjust your medication types and dosage a numer times over months, even years, in order to hopefully find the right combination to provide relief and minimalize side effects. Quite often, side effects can be more troublesome than the original problem.

So I started taking Valerian root from gnc to try to get more sleep and that triggered a false positive on a ud. I asked for a conformation test by a gas spectroscope, but the VA said the test cost to much, and are now screwing me more. The interns in the pain clinic also screwed up a spinal injection, sticking the needle in the wrong spot, and then bending it while it was still in my spine, but the whole procedure was completely different than spinal injections I received in the Army.

Although Valarian is a natural solution to help sleep, it is known to interact with a lot of medications. I used to take it nightly, but the docs told me to stop. When I did, some of the side effects went away. There are other medications which can help you sleep.

The VA is known for bragging about providing the best care anywhere, but then decline procedures based on cost.

The screwed up spinal injection sounds serious. Be sure to obtain your treatment records. A lawyer may be able to help, but research this site on how to find the right lawyer. Also, the VA is famous for 'training' resident docs and letting them learn/experiment on Veterans. The VA patient and responsibilities page says you have the right to choose your provider. I always choose to pick a provider who is not a resident. I have received numerous spinal pain blocks. They were all performed by anesthesiologists with lots of experience and also not by the VA. If you have decent private insurance, this might be an option.

I've been tortured by chronic pain the last 7 years and don't know what to do. During this time I graduated from a credited university, maintained a good legal and job record, put in hundreds of hours of community service, and they still screw me every time at the VA.

I can definitely relate to this.

I have done research and know that intractable pain can be caused by any one of my conditions, but I have 9 and they still make light of it and say my pain isn't justified. I have gone from always getting 240 or above on the pt test, to my muscle strength being in the bottom 10%.

Remember the definition of intractable pain "pain that is not relieved by ordinary medical, surgical, and nursing measures. The pain is often chronic and persistent and can be psychogenic in nature." It is a tough case for docs to deal with. They believe they have tried everything and don't know what to do next, so they try the same old things over and over again. Try to seek care from a very experienced pain management doc, not a med school resident. Even though the residents are supposed to present to real doc, sometimes details are lost in communication. Try to request the real doc be present so you can fill in any gaps missed by the resident.

If I can't get this pain taken care of, I am gonna lose my mind. The worst thing is that I have been telling them the exact same things for 7 years and they still try to deny me treatment, even after diagnoses have been made stating what I said to be true.

Have you reported this to the Patient Advocate? Or even further to the facility director? Some inexperienced docs don't know what to do, so they continue doing what was done before (which didn't really work), instead of thinking outside of the box and exploring new options. The pain clinic is also famous for doling out narcotic meds and laxatives. It also could mean that it might be time to get a second opinion from another doctor.

How do you get help in a situation like this?

You did the right thing. You have asked for help. Definitely take care to discuss options with your care provider. Sometimes it takes a lot of time to find the right solution. I think that is another reason why they call it practicing medicine. If it was perfected, the solutions would be cut and dry. Also, be sure to thoroughly research each of your conditions. It gives you more insight and can help improve communication with your provider.

This are just my opinions based on my personal experiences and I am not a licensed physician. Discuss any treatment plan changes with your providers first.

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As Vync asked, are you service connected for degenerative disc disease of the entire spine with chronic muscle spasms of the thoracic, cervical and/or lumbar regions (and any of the other conditions you mentioned related to your spinal conditions)?

I served in the first Gulf War and was diagnosed in 1997 with degenerative disc disease of the entire spine with chronic muscle spasms over the entire region, most specifically in the lumbar region. Over time (to present) I have developed sciatica and other nerve compression problems that have affected how the muscles in my bladder communicate with my brain. So naturally I am on a regiment of medications to calm the bladder spasms, back pain, nerve pain, etc. It took me two years to get the VA to admit there was problems associated to the not one, not two, but three herniated discs in my lumbar spine. 3 months ago they agreed to do surgery (fusing L4 to L5 and L5 to S1), and they said I would have an appointment within 3 months. Well, it's been three months and no word.

Point being...you have to stay on top of the VA to get things done and get them done right. During my 2 year battle I had to use the patient advocate twice just to get to the point of the nuerosurgeons to agree that given all the tests and scans that they have done on me warrant back surgery. So as Vync said, and I agree, start using your patient advocate at the VA; in addition to seeking advice on the botched spinal injection. That could have been a serious error on their part, and that needs to be addressed.

Lastly, I have been learning as of late that since the first Gulf War, musculoskeletal disorders, specifically degenerative disc disease, has been a common injury to soldiers in the Armed Forces. Today I was informed to check the Seattle Times for a story, which is now being carried by other news outlets, regarding this very fact. It may be worth reading:

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2014217486_apwaoverloadedsoldiers1stldwritethru.html

http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/us-army-researchers-investigate-incidence-of-combat-musculoskeletal-injuries-sustained-in-operation-iraqi-freedom-116466913.html

This issue is nothing new, much like many injuries caused by military service...in addition to the DOD and VA's denial of serious issues for years, even up to a decade before admitting the injuries exist (e.g. Gulf War Syndrome). Meanwhile, as you noted and have experienced, the VA just wants to medicate you and do nothing more because it's "cheaper."

Anyhow, the military has known about musculoskeletal disorders for years...

http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa3912/is_200212/ai_n9156160/ (Musculoskeletal injuries in Army Airborne Population)

Were you by chance a Paratrooper?

Another thing you can do to is better educate yourself on your conditions. That way you can more effectively communicate with the VA doctors about what you are going through, and let them know you know about your conditions and what the viable treatments are and what the VA should be doing vs what it is not doing.

T.S.

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