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Veteran with Questions

CTodd_USAFCCTodd_USAF Posts: 2
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:55 AM in Chronic Pain
Hello All,
I seperated from Active Duty about 7 months ago and have finally started receiving VA Healthcare, I dont have any insurance and havent been abled to find a job yet so it is a god send. I was seen for my Chronic Lower/Mid back pain multiple times while in the military and it was constantly shrugged off as a strain or spasm and I was given Motrin 800 and sent back to work. The VA Doctor evaluated me and sent me to have XRays taken, the XRays were evaluated and I was told I have A "complete transitional or L6 vertebra with bifid spinous process". After research I now known what the "diagnosis" means, but most of the research I have found reports that my issues are not associated with any pain. I also have been diagnosed with slight scoliosis as well before joining the military but was told it wasnt severe enough to disqualify me from military service. Does anyone else have these issues and have moderate to severe lower/mid back pain? Is it just me? Am I alone in these symptoms?

also - I had never taken stronger pain medication before and the VA Doc initially perscribed me Tramadol 50mg which didnt work, now she prescribed me a Hydrocodone7.5mg/Acetaphinomen500mg which still does not seem to work when the pain is severe which is about 4-5 times weekly. I feel like the Dr. may think I am a drug addict or something if i report that these still dont quite do it. I just dont know what to do!

Thanks for any suggestions or comments


  • HI Todd,

    First let me say welcome to spine-health. Have a look around and you will find others whom have conditions that medically speaking shouldn't cause pain but do. But along with the condition they found, there could be something else going on that possibly could only seen by a MRI. After about the age of 25 everyone will show some wear and tear on their spine, and many will never know as they are not symptomatic, however then there is the group like us here that are symptomatic.

    AS far as the doctor and the pain meds, a lot of the perception is how you tell the doctor. One thing you might do is start a journal and journal your pain and show it to your doctor. Plus it also gets you in touch with the pain as far as type and exact location. Things like pins and needles, moving down a leg, stabbing, aching and so on. You should never ask the doctor for a specific medication as that sends off all kinds of red flags. It might not be a stronger pain med that is needed but maybe a muscle relaxer or a nerve med. Which is why explaining the pain is so crucial so the doctor can find the right mix of medication for your individual circumstance.

    Just thought i would stop by and welcome you to spine-health. Thanks for your service to our country. If there is anything I can do in the future don't hesitate to pm me. Take care.
  • Thanks for the insight....I am only 22 and certainly hope my problems do not continue to get worse so soon. Thats a very good Idea about the journal I will certainly do that. Thanks!
  • Welcome to spine-health. As Tam said, keep a journal of your pain and also try to describe how it feels. It it tingling, burning, sharp, stabbing, soreness, achiness, etc. Since my surgery, I've had a standing prescription for oxycodone, but if I have a flare-up of nerve pain (burning, tingling) the pain med won't touch it. When the flares happen, I need a medrol pack (fast-acting, short-term steriod to take down the inflammation), and Lyrica, which is a nerve pain blocker. There are some pains that all the narcotics in the world won't help, so if the doc knows the type of pain, she may be able to suggest something else. Have you ever tried a TENS unit? It's an electronic muscle stimulator and sometimes really helps.

    Hang in there. Thanks for your service to our country. I'm glad you're home safe and hope you find a good job soon.
    3 level spinal fusion, L3/4, L4/5, L5/S1, November 2008. Stiff, but I can walk.
  • Hey Man,

    Bitter-sweet to see another Vet here. I wanted to reach out as I am in complete reliance on the VA for care now since my career ended a couple years ago.

    Let me start by saying I am not a VA employee. I am not a VSO. I am not connected to the VA, Service Organizations, etc in any way, shape, or form. I am a patient of the VA with almost 20 years experience dealing with that red tape and pure crap it takes to get through things with them. My opinions are my own, but I try and present them as close to reality as possible

    Were you separated for medical reasons or was it just a regular discharge? Do you have a complete copy of your medical records +mental health, hearing tests, eye exams, xrays, mri, etc? You need them both in hard copy and digital formats. This will save you a lot of time and heartache as time goes on, trust me.

    Have you applied for Service Connected Status at the VA yet? This is a long process, so get started early. Do you have the GI Bill or an AFSC that needs education or training to get a good job out here in the World? If you do, you can get into school under the VR&E )Veterans Rehabilitation and Employment) program... this will get you 100% care at the VA while you are in the program.

    Get a VSO (Veteran Service Officer)... there are many, but I would suggest one that has State ties -or- the Disabled American Veterans (DAV). These guys know the steps, forms, and processes inside out and can make sure you do things in proper order and in proper fashion.

    If you have a Service Connected Condition, get a Primary Care Doc now so you can start building a file for the Regional Office to see when you make a claim. Be pro-active with your Doc; do not hold back, talk about suggestions from your peers, forums, etc with him or her.

    Now, the pain and the medication requests issue... Be honest and transparent with your Doc and his PA's. Talk about the pain, frequency, type, and effect it has on you when it is really bad. When he prescribes, and they will, do not abuse them, don't ask for more early, and report the effect clearly and truthfully.

    Br a proactive patient; engaged, informed, and knowledgeable about YOUR pains and other issues. Know what he is saying and learn to speak the language to get your opinion across to him.

    I have been taking hydrocodone for many, many, many years. It had gotten to the point that I am able to self-regulate and exceed the prescribed dosage "as needed" and if I fall short (which I have not in 5 years), he will make-up the difference. THAT's trust, and it was built with knowledge, honesty, and very clear communication.

    Get online with the VA... that being said, they lag about 12 years in technology and interface design. But, they do have some cool sites that allow you to monitor yourself, input activities, tests, see appointments, refill prescriptions, and many other things. That site address is:


    Another really good resource is this one:


    Setup your account and credentials with both. Do the myhealthyvet first and perform you in-person authentication and then do the second one which is ebenefits.

    These two sites will be a staple to your VA experience, they are invaluable in my opinion.

    So, Welcome! I wish you the best of luck and ask that you try and ride the wave during this transition. It is a difficult one and, once again in my opinion, designed to discourage you from using the VA because of how frustrating it is to get anything done.

    Take care of yourself, get these basics done, and be an active participant in your health and VA system.

    Thank you for your service, for carrying the banner after I had to pass it on.

  • This is what I get for posting when I cannot sleep and the med levels are high....

    Sorry for being repetitive in my reply to things you have already done. I hope some of the things I talked about are helpful, though.

    All the best,
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