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Back Pain And ComBat–For The Military Mom


Back Pain and Combat—For  The Military Mom

Combat experience associated with back pain may seem an odd topic for a post. After all, you maybe thinking, how can back pain compare to mutilated limbs or brains splattered all over the ground. The most decorated U.S. soldier of World War II, Audie Murphy returned home a hero and became an actor, starring in his own story, To Hell and Back. His description of the emotional turmoil, he suffered from post traumatic stress disorder throughout his life, as a result of  his combat experiences still move me.

Tips About Back Pain and Combat
Audie Murphy War Hero

He recalled a visit to a garden and said he couldn’t even bring himself to touch the flowers for fear that he’d somehow harm them. In comparison to the more traumatic  experiences  of war, you’d be forgiven if you thought that back pain and combat is a small matter—nothing to worry about. However, such thinking ignores the very real problem of brave men and women who on the outside may look fine but suffer from  excruciating back pain and don’t have the support structure of their  civilian  counter parts. This post is my way of making, even in a small way, a difference by exposing a subject that is rarely spoken—back pain and combat experience.

Back Pain And Deployment

Military Mom Victorious in Training
Military Mom

According to a study, published in Spine with an analysis of 53,933 military personnel— “ Combat experience appears to be the primary risk factor rather than deployment itself, perhaps because of the higher physical demands and psychological load from life-threatening combat situations.  Service support or supply handlers had increased odds of back pain compared with functional support or administrative occupations.”

Let’s examine the above statement point by point

Combat experience is primary risk rather than deployment. In an earlier post, speaking about the negative effects stress has on the body, I wrote the following: Cortisol, the hormone your body produces when you’re feeling stressed, can take a heavy toll on your physical and mental health. Because of this, giving your mind time to relax and recover is one of the most important self-care routines that you can practice. Your state of mind has the potential to greatly benefit your health, or degrade it, over time.

Unlike their civilian counterparts who may also face highly  stressful situations, soldiers are rarely given the opportunity  to de-stress. Civilians, to illustrate, have access to a whole category of techniques that help people calm the body and release tension.  One such  treatment is Biofeedback. This approach teaches you how to control normally unconscious bodily functions, like blood pressure or your heart rate.  You can  Check the following for pain lasting more than 12 weeks. To summarize the above  point, those in combat experience have no outlet that will constructively allow them to minimize stress and that increases the chances of back pain. A study in  states “ Deployment with combat experiences was found to increase the odds of back pain and repeated back pain in a relatively young U.S. military and veteran population.”

Let’s take the second point: Service handlers had increased odds of back pain compared with functional support or administrative occupations. Years ago I worked as part of a morning crew  that unloader trucks. The repetitious  task of  carrying heavy cartons from the truck to a pallet gave me an aching back, and that was just doing two hours of heavy work. Service handlers in the military  work a lot longer hours performing repetitious  tasks that involve lifting heavy loads. It makes sense than that they would have experience higher incidents of back pain than those working in the office.

Combat and Diet

You might have seen photos  on FaceBook that allegedly  show maggots infested tomatoes and raw chicken as examples of bad food severed to our soldiers. While this is sensational  and outrageous if true, one doesn’t need to look at extreme cases to appreciate the link between diet and back pain as it relates to combat experience. Let’s assume that indeed our soldiers are provided with foods that are safe to eat. This still doesn’t answer the question as to whether they have access to foods that reduce stress and provide enough to replenish and rebuild a body that is perhaps breaking down from the strain of combat. In an earlier post, I made the following observation:

If you are under a lot of stress it’s a good idea to consume foods high in magnesium.

Consumption оf these foods stimulate the production оf а neurotransmitter called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). Thе production оf GABA helps іn inducing relaxation and sleep. Thіѕ inhibitory transmitter аlѕо has the added benefit of lessening anxiety. Magnesium іѕ аlѕо а muscle relaxant and beneficial fоr soothing frayed nerves. Sоmе оf the foods that аrе rich іn magnesium include spinach, broccoli, lettuce, skimmed yogurt, pumpkin, scallops, oysters, black beans, bananas, avocados, apricots, walnuts and cashews.

It’s easy enough for the average person to get some nerve calming food, maybe not so much for the average solider. This reality is another reason why stress related back pain is still a big problem that the military  brass cannot ignore.


According to the latest report by the National Center For Health Statistics, back pain is a medical condition that has resulted in 85 billion in U.S. costs annually. So most of us are aware  of how back pain effects us, those we love, our friends, and our community. I hope that after reading this post you have become more aware of how back pain affects our soldiers. This post is dedicated to my mom, a back pain sufferer and former nurse. She asked the question, “why doesn’t anyone ever really talk about what soldiers are going through?” Well mom, I hope I did my part. Everyone else, please feel free to leave a comment. I would especially love to hear from you if you , a friend, or family member has experienced back pain related to military service.

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like to hear from the readers so please leave me a comment below to let me know if this post helped you or if you have any questions.

22 thoughts on “Back Pain And ComBat–For The Military Mom

  1. Loved the post! Great information and very interesting. God bless you and your mom . Please thank her for her service. Same to you if you served!

    I am an ex army person. So I also have a heart for our service members and their after service care. We know it needs lots of work. I know first hand.

    I moved from Virginia to Michigan recently. Lot better system here!!! But thank you for pointing to an area that is glossed over.

    A bad back is a huge issue for quality of life

    1. Let me first express my happiness for your health and coming back to your family safe. My mother, as I told Katie, hasn’t served. She got her empathy for service men and women as a result of traveling the world and treating men and women suffering from broken bodies and spirit—sometimes as a result of war related injury. Her stories of those brave men and women really touched me and I knew I had to put her concerns in a post.

  2. What an interesting article, thanks for sharing! I love the inspiration from your mom. I am a long-time back pain sufferer and can attest to how it impacts so many areas of life. I can’t even imagine how terribly our combat heroes suffer from back pain, having to put their bodies through so much. One more reason to thank our vets and be grateful to those who are risking their lives and health for us each day!

    1. Hi Katie,

      Thanks for the kind words. My mom didn’t serve. However, she has traveled the world and in her capacity as a skilled nurse saw, comforted, and treated men an d women with serious wounds. She has a lot of empathy for those who she believes risk much but don’t get the help they need.

  3. Hello here. It is an interesting and informative read. It is great that you can offer the help for military personnel.
    They served country when we were safe and without problems living civil lives.
    Back pain can be devastating especially after injuries.
    Your suggestion about magnesium is straight to the point. Magnesium is vital mineral which participates in over 700 enzymes interactions.
    Magnesium oil or magnesium citrate make miracles in the calming, relaxing and soothing way.
    How about specific exercises? I guess that exercises can help immensely too.
    All the best, thanks for great information. Nemira.

    1. Hi Nemira,

      Thanks for your feedback, and your info on magnesium is very helpful. In fact, a few days ago I talked to a friend who informed me that his doctor prescribed magnesium pills to help him sleep better. So you’re right about the calming and relaxing affects of magnesium. As for specific exercises, Yoga is a good way to relieve back pain. You can catch the exercises that I recommend with this link.



  4. What an appropriate and thoughtful article! My dad and grandfather were both career soldiers. I can’t imagine how much they went through. In modern times, when I see a photo of a combat-ready soldier I am awestruck by the equipment they carry all day everyday.
    I don’t know if they are supplied back braces for certain jobs. They should be.
    I know vets who battle to just get an appointment at the VA clinics. I really wish they all had better care, across the boards.

    1. Hi Dianne,
      First, I thank your dad and grandfather for their service. It is a shame that most people are not aware of how much some career soldiers suffer back pain in silence. I hope this post makes more people understand their situation.


  5. I think you did your part Thabo in explaining back pain. It is a very serious problem it’s so easy to hurt the back and so hard to heal. Audie Murphy was a great actor watched many of his movies you tell they were anything wrong with him. Back pain is SERIOUS great post.

    1. Hello Fred,

      Thank you so much for your kind words about how my post addressed the problem of back pain and our military personal. The problem has a chance of being solved if enough people become aware of it and start talking about it. That’s my hope.


  6. Great post, Thabo.
    Yes, it is so amazing the things we ‘don’t or choose not’ to think about and you have touched on a very sensitive topic especially at a time like this. First of all, hats off to anyone who has dedicated their service to the country of their choice. And the horror stories and experiences that come along with it…can be a source of nightmares as well as laurels and pain.
    Yes, hard army beds, hard earth surface, discomfort, body contortion, and so much more…yes, any back will feel the pain.
    It left me a little emotional, Thabo, but thanks for sharing.

    1. Hi Michelle,
      I get what you mean. I too had mixed emotions when writing this post. It’s very frustrating and a bit depressing to see how those who have dedicated their service to the country can’t get the help they need, and at the same time it’s inspiring to see their unflinching resolve.


  7. Thank you, Thabo, for this post. And God bless your mom. My husband and I have had back pain off and on through the years, but not from military service. We have a nephew in the US military, stationed in Hawaii right now, and this has got me thinking about his back health. He’s fine at the moment, but this is something I’d like him to read.
    This is an important subject, and I thank you for bringing it forward.

    1. Hi Suzanne,
      I thank your nephew for his service and wish him well. It’s people like him and the military moms I have met that drove me to write this post. It’s long past time that military personal suffering from back pain are given the help they deserve.

  8. It is lovely that your Mom inspired this article. As a nurse, I am sure she has seen a lot of people suffering from back pains, including those in the military.
    My grandmother often said, “too many burdens made for a broken back”. In the same ways showing her agreement with your post and the comparison with stress. I did not know magnesium played assistant in helping with stress-induced pains. Makes sense.
    I do not serve in the military but have my share of back pains and stress. I may try that. I regularly take vitamin D as well. That has helped a lot with mine as well.
    Thank you for the wonderful story.

    1. Hi Christina,
      Thanks so much for your kind words and for sharing your grandmother’s wisdom. I was touched and honored that you thought she’d find my post useful. I am also glad that the post has given you some tips that will help your back. As always, It was very nice to hear from you.



  9. Hi, Thabo, and thanks for such an informative article about back pain. While many do escape it, it is fairly normal for most, especially for those who are experiencing the problems you report but also for those who have arthritis. I recommend those with severe back pain see their doctor, who likely will order back x-rays and go from there with treatment. After trying everything for relief, I finally opted for lumbar and cervical laminectomies. The lumbar surgery has been more difficult to recover from as it can take a year or more, but eventually, I expect to feel great.

    1. Hi Tanya,
      Thank you so much for sharing your story. Personal accounts like yours help others who suffer from back pain feel that they are not alone and can seek the help they need.

  10. Fascinating – would never have thought this.
    We learn something every day.

    1. Hi Lawrence,

      I am glad you found this post interesting.

  11. Thanks for bringing attention to the back pain suffered by those serving their country. I agree it can affect anyone serving, even when they don’t appear injured and it is a great suggestion to highlight this and offer a solution. Thank you to all who serve! and thanks for sharing.

    1. Hello Tara,

      Back pain suffered by those serving their country is indeed a big problem that most people are not aware off. I’m glad that you found the post useful.

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