Are You a Veteran Suffering From Back & Neck Pain? Here’s How To Apply For Benefits!

Are You a Veteran Suffering From Back & Neck Pain? Here’s How To Apply For Benefits!


(logo whooshes) (heart beating) – Hi everybody, this is Combat Craig, and today I have Lara Chase with me, and we are going to be talking
about VA claims for neck pain and we’re gonna talk about back pain and probably a little bit about secondary service connections
and somatic symptom disorder, and a few other fun things. Hi Lara, say hi to the folks. – Hey, Combat Craig. So I’m Lara, just to introduce myself, I’m a doctor of physical therapy. I am a veteran myself as well, so I love the community of the veterans, and this is kind of where my heart is, so I’m so excited to be here and be speaking with you guys today,
and get this ball rolling. – So from a neck pain perspective, I actually had like a
twitch, or a tweak in my neck or something in 2012, and then
like, it just didn’t go away. And then I went to the
doctor, he took x-rays, can’t see shit when you
can’t, right, it’s MRI stuff. So I had to go through physical
therapy to get to the MRI, and then I got to the MRI and I had a disk C3-4 and C4-5 were bad. Got shots, and then I had surgery called anterior discectomy on
C3-4, and that was in 2013, and basically had that neck
brace and that whole nightmare, and then whatever, I healed up,
the bones are all healed up, and the pain is exactly the same. And that was six years ago. – Okay, so I’m gonna recap. You had neck pain, you got
imaging in the form of an X-ray, they couldn’t see anything. You did some form or bout of PT, then you had some sort
of MRI, got some shots, still had pain so you had surgery, and then here we are today, you’re still experiencing neck pain. – Yes. – Okay. So what you and I just
described is very standard, whether it’s VA, military, or civilian medical process, if you will. I hurt, I go to doctor, what happens. So, you know, ’cause I
know sometimes people can get frustrated with
oh, I’ve got to go to PT, oh I’ve got to do this first, absolutely. So, as annoying as it
can be for the veteran, we as medical providers don’t want people to always be in pain, right. So there is a rhythm or,
the madness makes sense even though it doesn’t necessarily to the person going
through it at that time. So, I just wanted to hit some points that you had already mentioned, imaging. Absolutely. So you got an X-ray. Lots of times, you’re not
gonna see things on X-rays. You are gonna see a lot
of things on X-rays, but if you have something
that’s not related to a bone, in your case you had disk herniation, you have to see it on an MRI. So, typically doctors
will order MRIs after, if you’re explaining certain symptoms that you’re experiencing. If it’s just probably like oh, I tweaked my neck two weeks
ago, they’re gonna do an X-ray. You’re not gonna get the magical MRI. But if you’re starting to feel things like numbness, tingling, weakness. All of those things tell
a medical professional that there is something
neurological happening. Neurological, that’s a really fancy word for your freakin’ spine, okay. Your spine and your brain. Your spinal cord has all these nerves that come out of it at all those segments. You said you were C-3, C-4, C-5? – Yep. – So C-3, C-4, and C-5
all have nerve roots that come out and feed
to the rest of your body. So depending on where
those nerve roots feed, you could be experiencing
numbness, tingling, pain, this hurts, I can’t move,
holy crap I need some help. – Oh I can, can I
interrupt you, I have more. – Absolutely. – So, after surgery, about
eight months after surgery, this finger goes numb every night, and then half of this one. So I think it’s the
ulnar nerve or something. – Yes it is. – And it like, right now
it’s probably like 15% numb. So it’s like I type with
like this dead, goofy finger. But every night it goes 100% numb, I don’t know if I lay on it or something, and then, the best way to describe it is it kind of wakes up, and now it’s just, it doesn’t hurt so,
there’s no range of motion, there’s no pain, it’s just annoying numb. I just want to add that in. – Well, so on a personal note from me, I’ve actually had spine surgery
but at a lot lower level, and I had, so I was L-5, S-1. And I was experiencing all those: numbness, tingling, pain,
weakness, et cetera. I’ve had surgery, I had surgery two years ago next week, actually. And I have, I wouldn’t say no pain, but I feel considerably better
compared to pre-surgery. But, the back of my leg is
still numb from basically underneath my buttocks
all the way to my heel. It’s numb to like light touch, so if I rub my fingers
in the back of the leg, it feels differently on that
side than the other side. The reason for it, which nobody probably explains to anybody, when you have a disk herniation,
C-3, C-4, C-5 in your case, the disk herniates,
think of a jelly donut. And the jelly inside
the donut squeezes out. That’s a disk herniation. The jelly donut inside
your disks squeezes out into your spinal column
where your spinal cord is and all these little
roots, and the herniation sits or presses on the nerve root. It damages it. Nerves take a really long time to repair themselves compared
to bone or muscle. Nerves can take years if ever to repair. So, this is probably not
an answer you want to hear, but the little numbness
that you feel occasionally, might never go away. – Right. – But, you know, compared to
what you were feeling before, you probably feel a lot better. I like to be very honest with people, so two years later the back of my leg is still a little numb. When I went to my C & P exam for my back, they tested my touch sensation
from one leg to the other. So, yes that is decreased,
and it’s two years later. Nerves take a really long
time to repair, or they don’t. So, just know that what
you’re experiencing is normal, but it’s not always
potentially the answer, right. Like, we want to feel 100%. We had a crap ton of
awful things happen to us. You had disc herniations, you had surgery. First of all, no surgery
is a minor surgery. They cut into your spine, you know. – Yeah, I got that one. – Yeah, and so that’s a major surgery. And so what I try to get
people to focus on is, how do you feel today
compared to pre-surgery? Now you said that you are still
feeling pain and discomfort. And so I guess I’m gonna ask you, is it, do you feel like
it’s more nerve pain, and so nervy pain would be like that shooting, maybe kind of electric feeling pins and needles, numbness,
something like that, or does it feel more like achy pain, knotted muscles,
– Achy, knotted muscles. It’s for sure, that’s the
way it’s been described to me is a knotted, it’s just a big
knotted clump, and it just, it’s all over my neck,
and I don’t even know where else it goes in my body, it’s just right here’s
the worst part of it. And the only thing that makes this better, just to kind of segway back over to the L-5, S-1, you had surgery, I didn’t. I have a big herniated disk there. And my radiculopathy thing
goes down into my calf, but they give me a shot and
then it sucks it back out and now I just have like a bad back. So when my back pain’s
gnarlier or my neck pain, I focus, the pain just moves
around and I’m just like, where’s my pain today? Sometimes it’s like, I don’t
even want to get out of bed. It’s in my feet, it’s in my neck. So yeah, for my shoulder it’s right here but I know the other side
of my neck’s all stiff, and I feel it in whatever
these are, pectoral muscles I think.
– Yes, yep your pecs. So, you have a couple
things I want to note on. One, when you’re talking about, so sometimes I’m able to focus on this pain and not this
pain and it moves around, and I believe, and a lot
of medical professionals will definitely agree
with me, that there is a huge factor in the
mental aspect of pain. And as we know, the VA now recognizes the chronic pain disorder,
the somatic pain disorder. Even un-veterans related,
just me being a PT, I am dealing with any kind
of patient whether they’re 90 or 10 years old or
everything in between. There is such a huge
component to everybody that feels pain from a mental aspect. And that’s not easy to overcome, right. People find outlets to deal with the pain and try to get the focus off of it. But that is a real thing. You not knowing if this
is gonna hurt today, or why did this hurt yesterday but this side of me hurts today. And I believe that so much
is tied to that mental piece, that chronic pain piece
where your brain is telling this area that this is
what’s gonna hurt today. I don’t have a magic 8 ball
to make that all go away, but that’s why, with all
these different types of healthcare providers, team
right, it’s team aspect, we try to be able to focus on redirecting. Working in a pain-free
environment or range of motion within the body to kind
of calm everything down to include the brain that’s telling
this area that should hurt. One thing, that’s the one note, one thing I wanted to talk
about that you brought up. The second thing,
– Yep, no problem. – The knotted muscles,
specifically in your neck, that you are experiencing. So you had a major surgery, and it is not uncommon after surgery for things to still feel,
even years later, not 100%. I had back surgery two years
ago, I do not feel 100%. I still feel discomfort in certain areas, sometimes in my mid back,
sometimes in my calf, just like you were experiencing. So, how do we manage
what we feel like now, because you had a major neck surgery, because somebody had a major back surgery, because there’s still gonna
be a component to healing and rehab and trying to
get into this pain-free daily living on a regular basis. – As we get older, every single day in our body breaks down more, that’s happening
– I know unfortunately. So there’s few things,
that’s one of the things we just can’t control, right. Well we can’t control genetics,
and we can’t control aging. But we can control a lot of
other things that hopefully will help us improve our quality of life. Is it gonna make it perfect? I don’t really know what perfect is. But you know, if you’re living
a happy, productive life then I think that’s as close to what whatever this definition
of perfect is gonna be. So as a therapist, as
a physical therapist, I like to offer people education and nuggets of information that
maybe they can take with them wherever they may live
to help decrease pain. I don’t want people to live
in pain on a regular basis. So specifically with knotted muscles, obviously we know therapy can help, and there’s a lot of,
something that I practice, and that’s kind of up and coming and you and I have
spoken about this before, is something called dry needling. And some veterans very likely have heard of it or had it done, even if they, quite
possibly if some of them are recent veterans or had been
recently been on active duty ’cause a lot of active
duty physical therapists practice dry needling. But I love dry needling for
treatment of knotted muscles. You are in pain on a regular
basis, you’ve had neck surgery, so they’ve probably taken care
of, did you have a fusion? Or did you just,
– Oh yeah. – Okay. So they took care of unstable neck bones and herniated disks, the jelly donut that squeezed out right, so
they’ve taken care of that, but you still have muscles
that are pretty angry that you have hardware in
your body that isn’t organic to Combat Craig when he was born, right. You’ve got some metal in there, some pins and screw, et cetera. And you have nerves that are
still potentially damaged. So you have muscles that are likely, without me sitting next to you and being able to touch
you to evaluate you, you probably have muscles that are a little bit upset that all this happened. – Yep. – Not to mention, unfortunately,
this area of our body, whether we’ve had surgery or not, tends to be where we carry stress. And stress comes out in
the form of tense muscles, knotted muscles, things that are achy, pain that can travel,
nerve pain that can travel, and so you’ve kind of got
the triple, quadruple whammy going on there because you had surgery, this is where we carry stress, we’re also a lot of times on
our computer and our phones, right, so we kind of have
that posture going on. So I treat knotted
muscles all over the body with trigger point dry needling
is the fancy terminology. The best way to describe
it is for veterans that might be feeling pain
in their neck or other places in their body, if it’s
muscular type of pain or, you know when you go to a massage, like a massage therapist
or you go have a massage and somebody pushes here, and they really work on that area. Okay, so as a physical therapist who does trigger point dry needling, research, there’s tons of research
out there that has proven to be very effective with
this dry needling technique. So Combat Craig would
come see me in my clinic, and I would poke around in your neck and you’d be like oh, that’s, right there. I can feel with my hands
that that muscle tissue doesn’t feel like it’s suppose to feel, – Right
– So we would go through what dry needling is. I would only recommend people not doing it if you have fear of needles. If you have no fear of needles,
then you are a candidate. And I take this really thin needle that actually looks like
an acupuncture needle, it’s the same kind of needle, it’s just, that’s the best way to
describe it, it’s so thin. It’s not like a needle
where you get a vaccine, it’s not that thick. And I take the needle and I put it deep into that knotted muscle and I basically milk it like I’m milking
a cow, in and out. We call it pistoning. And I’m feeling with my other hand the integrity of what the knotted area on the back of your neck feels like. And the, what it does is the needle breaks up that knotted muscle area. And lots of times, you know you do a couple different locations, like with a couple different needles
if you were seeing me for 30, 45 minutes that day. And then later that
day you might feel like you had some sort of intense
workout in that area, your muscle will feel sore. But typically, like 24 to 48 hours later, people feel amazing. Does everybody feel 100%? No. But do they, do a lot of people experience a decrease pain with this area? Absolutely. When you have so much
involvement with neck pain, post surgery, neck injury
and neck stain, anything. It doesn’t, I keep referencing the surgery ’cause you had surgery
but there’s plenty of veterans out there who
haven’t had neck surgery, but they’re experiencing these things. There’s never one answer
to why things hurt, right. You had, somebody could
have a disk herniation, so that’s gonna hurt your spinal cord and your bones and your nerves. But that’s also gonna make a
lot of other crap in your body angry, like your muscles, the blood flow. So, when things get
angry, we have to not only think about how can I protect
the area that’s been damaged, but how can I calm down
the things that are angry. So tying that into alternative treatments with physical therapy,
potentially maybe dry needling, and then there’s that big mental aspect of that chronic pain, the somatic pain where the brain is telling
this area this hurts. And so we don’t want veterans
to be sitting at home and laying in bed all day because
everything completely hurts. I got it, there are
gonna be days when people just absolutely can’t get out of bed because holy crap, this hurts so much. But I just want to offer some ideas when people are seeing
their medical professionals, well I heard about this one
thing, what about trying that, what about trying dry needling? What about trying you know, as silly as it sounds, with
the mental aspect of it, I’m not a big person,
it doesn’t work for me, but people and pain and meditating. If people can get on
board with meditating, to redirect their
thoughts, it’s an option. Is it gonna work for everybody? No. Listening to loud, crazy music
might work for some people. My form of meditation, I
like to throw around barbells because I enjoy working out. But finding whatever your outlet is to redirect your thoughts, and
not obsessing over this hurts, because the more you
obsess, the more the brain is gonna tell that area it should hurt. And we need to calm all of that down. – So I have a question, and I’m looking for the name of an app. I’m going down a rabbit hole. So, these apps for
meditation, do you have any off the top of your head that you know, work well, or that you could recommend? – I, I’m gonna have to go on my phone and then I can drop it
in the comments section. I don’t have mediation apps,
but I do have sleep apps. But they play like meditation
type stories, if you will, where somebody’s talking in
like the really soothing voice, and there’s about lavender
fields in France and, so I wouldn’t necessarily, I
don’t know if it’s necessarily a meditation app, but I do
have, I have a couple free ones. Look, I don’t want to pay for apps. But there’s just so much is tied to that mental aspect of pain. You know, medical professional
after medical professional after medical professional
can probably pull up the statistics on that
piece, like the percent that it affects how you feel, and it is, until you’ve been there and felt it, it’s hard to actually understand what people are going
through that have it. It’s a real thing, you know. And so I, I don’t have
X-ray vision, right. I can’t see into your body
to see what’s going on. I can just go off of
what you’re telling me, or what a patient, what
a veteran is telling me when we see them, and so to, to find somebody who
will listen to veterans, who will listen to you as a veteran, and really understand that
this isn’t a body part. This isn’t a neck, there’s
so many other things that it’s attached to to
include the brain, right. When you, if you’re seeing
somebody for any sort of physical ailment, and if
they’re only focusing on that, that’s probably not the
person I’d recommend seeing. Focusing on the big picture. Somebody who’s gonna look at everything because it is all attached. Something as silly as, you
had an ankle fracture in 2005, and now your back hurts. Most people might not relate the two. It could quite possibly be related. Because if you broke an ankle, and then you’ve overcompensated
for 15, 14, 15, 16 years, your back can now hurt. – I was gonna say, I
would argue that we will 100% be able to connect
that, and Leah and her team will be the exact people that’ll do that. – Well you know, and I’ve worked with Leah on a personal and a professional level, and she is so good about being able to talk a veteran through, talking me, she helped me as a veteran, through tying things together and relating it. Because for so long, I actually was like, oh it’s not related, it’s not related, and she had to kind of have
multiple conversations with me. – Come at it different angles, like, but that’s a normal thing. You’re not unique that way,
– Right. – Yeah everybody kind of, I have this and this is the way I have it in my mind, I live with it every day,
this must be the way it is and it’s like yeah, you might want to think about they might be connected. – Right, absolutely. And so that is what is so
fantastic about what Leah does and what the med team
does because they are able to help veterans see
that things are related. And to tie in, well this can be secondary from this happening. And she is the expert, her
team is the expert on that, especially based on regulations. But I know from my personal
veteran standpoint, I had a hard time getting
there mentally because for so long, it was always,
you just tough it out. Well this is just what I deal with. – Right. – And you know, Leah and the team actually are what helped me
accept my spine surgery, ’cause that has happened
post service for me. But I use to do all these
certain things in service, and so kind of, people will ask you, well when did that happen? They want to know the
one event that caused, this is not related to being
somebody going to the VA or a veteran, this is
just people in general. My mom hurts her knee,
and she wants to know, why does my knee hurt? And I usually say, stop
searching for the one answer. I jumped out of airplanes
for multiple years, not my mom, I did (chuckles). You use to go rough marching twice a week with 40 pounds on your back, 12 miles. You know, you did five
mile runs on Mondays, seven mile runs on Fridays, and the rough marching on
Tuesdays and Thursdays. But now years later, things hurt, right. And so that’s what’s so fantastic
about the med team is that having these conversations with them they, you know my back injury was years later, how do I know that it’s
not related, you know. There is, don’t look for the one answer, the one day that something happened. And people, friends unrelated
to the military will ask me and I’m like, I don’t have
that one answer for you. – Sorry. – And that’s the same
thing with, you know, taking it back to neck pain. Just because you had surgery, yes I want you to feel
better after surgery and have no more pain. The reality is is that
you’re likely gonna still experience something that still doesn’t feel like before you
ever had a neck injury. So what are some options
for veterans to understand that they can go in and ask
their healthcare professionals, because we don’t want people
to be in pain every single day. You know, giving them these
nuggets of information to be able to live pain free, you know, and so that’s when you and I
were talking and I was like oh, why have you not tried dry needling? What’s that? I’ve never heard of it. Let me tell you about
what it is, you know. – And I would argue that,
and just two things. I hate needles, but you’re
laying down so you can’t see ’em. So it’s not like I, you know I don’t really like the blood drawing. But I don’t really like the
bigger acupuncture needles. So how is it different than acupuncture? – Ah, good question. Okay, so acupuncturists
can also dry needle, and when I took my dry needling training, I had a handful of acupuncturists
actually in my class. Now I liked this actually
because there are some states that don’t allow physical
therapists to dry needle. Specifically, I’m bringing up California only because I use to live in California, and I also use to live
in New York so I know those are two states that
don’t allow physical therapists to dry needle, but they
do allow acupuncturists to dry needle and the
acupuncturists in my class were from California, so it, you know. So, so I’ve never had acupuncture, but from talking to the
acupuncturists in my class, acupuncture goes off of
the Chinese pain meridians in your body, like if this hurts here, it’s something in my big toe. That’s just, that is not
– Okay, I do actually, kind of understand the
concept enough to be with you, I get that.
– Okay, so the, with dry needling,
we go deeper into the muscle. I find, I don’t just go off
of, you say it hurts here, so I’m gonna stick something in your toe, that’s not what I’m doing. You say, I have these lumps
on my neck, it hurts here. I’m gonna start using my hands, that’s why I keep doing
this with my hands, using my hands and poking around, and I am trained to understand what the integrity of a non-angry muscle feels like and an angry muscle feels
like, so as I’m poking around I’m like oh, this feels a little, not like what I’m suppose to feel. So the needle goes in
deeper than acupuncture. And with acupuncture, classic acupuncture, they’re not really taking the needle and going in and out like this. – Oh, right. – Does that make sense,
they’re putting them in the location
– Yeah, sometimes they’ll go in and put an electric
probe on there and, a little tinge in it thing. But yeah, they’re
definitely not doing that, what did you call that, pistoning? – Yeah, pistoning, or– – I gotta look up and
see if that’s available. I don’t, I hate needles
but I’m so over this, my knots need to go away.
– So, my husband, my husband also hates
needles, and he lets me be, he lets, he has agreed
to be my pin cushion (chuckles) because I am, you know,
when I’m here at home and I want to practice,
he’s my pin cushion. He hates needles but he
said just what you said, he’s like, I can’t see ’em. They are not big needles at all. They are super thin needles. They are the same type of
needle that an acupuncturist uses, but the difference
is is that we are going in a little bit deeper, and
other than the little like prick in, and it’s very much less of a prick than getting
the flu shot or the tetanus shot or whatever,
– Right, yeah, way less. – You do feel some, we call
them local muscle twitches because we are in an
aggravated knotted muscle, and we actually want to see the
little local muscle twitches because once the twitches stop, we know we’ve broken
up that knotted muscle. So it’s nothing too
intense, and like you said, if it’s on the back of your neck, you can’t see the needle anyways. It’s not that big of a needle, but yes, if somebody had an
extreme phobia of needles, they’re probably not a candidate. But if they can’t see the needle, you aren’t too afraid of needles,
it’s an alternative option that veterans could try
in terms of decreasing any kind of pain, neck
pain, back pain, hip pain. Heck, a lot of people suffer
from plantar fascitis, which has nothing to do with
the topic of this video. – I got that too. – But, dry needling of
the calf has proven to be very successful in patients
who have plantar fascitis. So just some, it’s just
some ideas as people are watching the video if
they’re like, wait a second, she said something that I feel, or I have that so maybe I
should go ask my PT about that. – I finally got a thing
to go to the acupuncturist in Helena, and you know I liked her, she did some cupping stuff
which didn’t really work. But I was pussing out on the needles. So she put the needles
in and when I’d feel, it sounds like you’re going beyond that part I was being a pussy about. So she’d put the needle in, I was like uh, it’s kind of hurting. And then like oh, let me get the little baby needles for you, Craig. And it sounds like you’re
going beyond that a little bit, which makes sense, I mean this is a nightmare pain for six years solid like, literally no pain no gain is
kind of what it sounds like to me, like I could understand that. – I mean, certainly we, yes and no. I mean, it’s not painful,
it’s certainly not painful. Is there some slight discomfort? Yes. Some people love it, some people hate it. We give it as an option. We want people to have options
in terms of pain reduction. Some people love cupping, and they think it works phenomenally. Then get cupping done. Some people love acupuncture. Then get acupuncture done. The crazy thing that I
wish wasn’t the case, what works for you may
not, might not work for me. We’re all individuals, right,
but we want to try it all. I tell people, when you have a, when you get a bad haircut, – Have no clue what that’s like. Maybe a bad, (chuckles)
– Well, so you get a bad haircut. You probably are not gonna go back to the same guy or gal that cut your hair, male or female.
– This is not a super cut, I’m outta here. – Yeah. So you go to somebody else the next time. So what I want to just
provide in terms of maybe hopefully some, you know,
recommendations to veterans, if you go to somebody at the VA, or your civilian medical provider, and you didn’t maybe get
what you wanted out of it, or you just didn’t feel like
the relationship was there, maybe they weren’t listening to you, maybe they weren’t
taking into consideration the whole veteran, right,
they were just thinking of the shoulder as the shoulder
or the neck as the neck. Find somebody else. You didn’t go back to the same person who cut your hair wrong.
– Right. – Right? So, I hear this all the time
as a physical therapist. Well, I tried that once,
they gave me exercises, sent me over there and
told me to do exercises, and so I never want to do
physical therapy again. I hear it all the time. Yes, does that happen? Absolutely. But I would tell you, go
find a different therapist. – Right. – You know, if food sucks at a restaurant, you’re not gonna go
back to the restaurant. You found a new restaurant, you know. So same thing with VA providers
and civilian providers. Don’t, you gotta stand up for yourself. I mean, this is, we see this, hear this all the time with VA, with veterans putting in claims, you know. You can’t give up. You know, if this is what
you think you deserve and you’re really feeling
this then you can either give up because that’s
what they said, you know, or you can keep fighting. So,
– And here’s what I’ve been doing. I’ve been taking narco tens for six years, a shit ton of ’em. And I’m in the tapering process, ’cause that just causes IBS
and whole nother bunch of just fucking miserable nightmares. So I’m actually going into
the spot where I’m taking half of what I was taking
like four months ago, and I’m whining and complaining
about it the whole way, but at the end of the
day I’m getting there. So the pain is changing, right, and it’s like I’m getting
to a point where you know, the narco’s gonna be gone, I’m
gonna feel it more probably, and I don’t want to go back
to drinking again and stuff, I am really, I’m very conscious that I could turn back into
a full blown alcoholic. – So, when you said, you know you’ve been taking the pain meds for so many years, and you’re starting to ween yourself off, which that’s what we want. You know, we, the U.S., the VA, has been, we know that there is a pain
medication addiction epidemic. – The opioid crisis. – Right. I had to take opioid for
a week right before I had pain surgery, and I will say,
well they were phenomenal in decreasing the pain leading
up to me needing surgery, but then after surgery I couldn’t take a crap and I was
really upset with that. I was constipated. And luckily, I felt amazing after surgery, but that’s just to say
that there’s so many other additional longterm side
effects with my digestive tract not working the way it should work, or, so when you take pain
medications all the time, it yes, it gives you an instant
relief of decreased pain, but it’s masking the real problem. – And, you get high to a degree. – Yes, right.
– To a degree, your brain gets high, so
that’s a whole nother level of, problems.
– Right, right. And so even the week I was on it, I one, I was like, I can understand why people get addicted to this. Luckily, I don’t have, I don’t suffer from having like an addictive personality, which is good because I have
people in my family who do and so I recognize that
that’s not a struggle for me. However, as the week went on
leading to surgery for me, taking the hydrocodone,
I, the more I took it, the less effective it was,
so then I needed more. So then I needed more,
and then I needed more. Luckily, it was one week because that was literally to get
me through until surgery. But, we don’t want people
on pain medication forever, all of the side effects of
being on the medication forever, and as a physical therapist, it’s masking whatever the problem is. – Right. And it’s really, they’re
suppose to be for acute pain, like the concept. So it’s like a, I think what
happened with my surgeon is I just fell into that 7%
group of, this is gonna fail, you know, like structurally I’m fine, you can’t sue me and it’s like, I don’t really give a shit about that. I’m in the same pain that I was, like this was completely pointless for me to have this surgery from where I sit. So yeah, it was never a
problem, yeah I don’t, I’m not, I don’t consider
myself an addictive personality but my brain, to a degree,
is sure addicted to ’em. My body is, and yeah, it’s kind of like, I hear people that’ll just
take a mouthful of ’em and then you’re, like
I don’t want to run out because then the constipation
turns into the shits, and that’s a whole nother nightmare. So I’m regulated about
not running myself out, and that’s why I can
handle this tapering thing. It sucks, but you know, and it’s like one pill a month. So it’s like a year long taper. And it’s like, – Wow. – Right, it’s not a you
know, it’s super slow, it’s like I’ve been on it for six years. So it’s like, we don’t
need to be a hero here, and I’ll give it up to
the VA for that, you know. Like, we want it to be effective, ’cause we know what the
alternatives can be, you know, and just, I’m cool, it
sucks that I have all these meds in my body, but I don’t
want to start self-medicating to like make up for where
there may be deficiencies, so. – Right, and so it’s so
important for you right now, or during this process, to
find these alternative ways to not have that same amount of neck pain while you’re coming off of the pain meds. – Right. – There’s gonna be a mental aspect to it so you’re not so focused on
why that area hurts, you know. And it’s gonna take time, unfortunately. I’m a big believer of whatever
an individual’s outlet, healthy outlet might be to do on a regular basis to help that mental health aspect of it so we aren’t so focused on the pain and this hurting. It’s not gonna make things perfect, it’s not gonna make things go away, but you know, we know that
your overall general health has different pillars as to
mental health, physical health. And so if we can look at
them all as being related, and you can find whatever
your individual outlet is, and do it on a regular basis
because it makes you happy, you feel good, then we can
maybe not focus so much on, this hurts all the time. Is it still gonna hurt
and be uncomfortable? Yes, but you’re gonna do that while you’re also incorporating these other things to help decrease your neck pain. You’re gonna try cupping,
you’re gonna try acupuncture, you’re gonna try electrode
things on the acupuncture. Maybe you try dry needling. – I’m, now I’m totally involved
in this YouTube project because it’s literally therapeutic for me, I’m doing something for the
first time in five years, and people are relating to my
stories and my teams’ stories and your stories and everybody’s stories, and like I get this, I
get this whole concept, and then that’s where the stress goes. Like at work, ten times worse. So that’s when I know, people are like Craig, you’re going way
too hard, you never stop and it’s like, I know exactly
when I’m going too hard, when I feel it here, and it’s not even, it’s like, from that aspect,
it’s pain free, my brain, like Brian just, there’s
no pressure whatsoever, it’s just go go go go go so it’s like I’m having fun with it. So it’s interesting, whenever,
if I start feeling it there then I know it’s work-related stress. – Right. And I feel similar,
especially with my back, I can feel similar things. And so, it’s again,
it’s not rocket science, but if you start to feel things like that, what I have to do and what works for me and what I also coach my
patients and veterans that I see are, you have to get up and walk around, change positions, do some stretching. Maybe you sit back down and
you feel the discomfort again, but you know, it’s just
like when we sleep, right. We don’t sleep in the same position all the time and not move. Our body is meant to move every so often. And so if you are sitting
down for a long time at work and you’re experiencing this
discomfort, take a break. You don’t even have to
get up and take a break, but change your positions, do
a little bit of stretching, drink a glass of water,
you know what I mean. Anything just to kind of shift
your mind off of that hurting but it’s a simple recommendation,
it’s not rocket science. But maybe you know, implementing
it on a regular basis. There’s a gal at my work who,
she has a alarm on her phone, and I actually hadn’t heard the alarm, but she said I don’t know
if you can hear the alarm, but every time the alarm goes off it’s so I can get up and walk. And she’s overweight, and so
she knows she needs to walk. And so every 30 minutes, her
alarm goes off on her phone, and she just walks to
the back of the office, around the cubicles, and comes back. – Get up and move your body. – Right. And so I just thought that was fantastic because it’s what everybody
should be doing, you know. Take your mind off of the
fact that my neck hurts. Take your mind off of the fact
that my back hurts, you know. Get up and change your
position a little bit, then sit back down. So just little recommendations,
nuggets of information that hopefully veterans, a veteran, even if it’s one or two can go oh my gosh, that really affected my life
and I hope that, you know, I’m gonna take that and try
that in my daily living. There was actually a comment
on the VA Claims Insider Mastermind page, I wish I would have taken a screenshot of it. I can probably go back and find it, and I think it was a female, and she actually said that she had I think gone to a VA doctor,
or some medical provider, I don’t know if it was a doctor, and they had, she’d been passed around from so many to so many,
and whoever she had ended up seeing was able to really
talk to her about this mental piece of pain, and how that is so related to other different, the neck hurts but then the
low back hurts tomorrow, but then the knee hurts
the next day, you know. And she was feeling very appreciative that whoever she was seeing was
taking a look at her as a whole, not just this one thing that hurts. – Yeah. – And when I saw that
comment, I was like yes, yes, that is it, you know. – I’ve got more for you. So I talked to a sleep
specialist yesterday and did an interview with her, and we looked at my sleep study, I was diagnosed with sleep apnea and I had the CPAP machine and stuff. And she was like, why was your
sleep study only four hours? Like, that was a killer
night’s sleep for me. Four hours, I’ll take that all day long. And we got to talking and the
camera kind of turned off. Not, we stopped recording, it was kind of like at
the end for a half hour. But she told me that I don’t
go into stage three sleep, and I don’t really go
into stage four sleep, and she’s like, how do you function? You probably can’t remember shit. I’m like yeah, that’s
been my entire adult life. She’s like, how do you do it? And I’m like, I just go and go and go until literally I’m gonna drop dead. So she’s like, try the Headspace app, but do it at two o’clock in the morning, and I always think about
these relaxation things. Like you said, go walk around, get out of your chair, that makes sense. I always think about this before sleep, I don’t know, for whatever
reason I’m even more open to it, but it’s like yeah, do it
before sleep and then do it at two in the morning when you
actually need to stay sleeping. So I’m actually gonna do
that because I’m gonna be way more efficient when
I can remember something, that’s why, I wake up at two
in the morning with a thought, and if I literally don’t
go bust a video out, I’ll lose what I was trying to do. So like, ’cause I just can’t, I can’t even remember
enough to write it down, I’m losing the concept
as I’m thinking about it. – There was another one,
another app now that we’re talking about apps, that
the very first one I tried, and the reason why I liked it was because, and I’m looking at the other
phone to see if it’s on there. There were two different,
the same app but then there were like two different
options, and one was like, color recognition, and you like, if blue is your favorite color
and you like close your eyes and I don’t know, I’m not really into all that kind of
tootie fruitie stuff. But the other one was, the
app talked you through, you’re in bed, like you’re
getting ready to go to bed, and the app talked you through
tensing certain muscles in your body, starting like,
I don’t remember if it was starting at your head and
then moving down to your feet, or the other way
– Right, you actually feel your toes and move them
and then feel them relax, yeah. – Right, and then eventually,
it was the whole body. And I, now I haven’t
practiced that one in a while, but I love that one. Like my body felt more relaxed,
just the whole contracting. And you’re just laying there on your back, you’re not in any sort
of weird positioning, but just kind of going through all that, and I wish I remembered
the name of that one. It must be on my phone that
I’m on, talking to you, – That one. – And so I don’t want
to bleep off the screen, that’s why I keep looking
at this other one. But that one, I really liked. – There’s another version of that, I can’t remember the name of it. I did that for my worker’s comp thing, it was some kind of, oh I
can’t remember the name. It was something, I’ve been
through so many of these things. Anyway, I’m gonna start
doing this ’cause I have to start doing this, and I was
telling some of my other, my teammates and it’s like, shit if we can get you to ratchet it down at all and actually get some sleep
and be more effective. And then also, I saw a
message that started it was Brian’s like, we are literally
going 100 miles an hour changing lives, explosive
growth, like you guys are you know essentially he’s like, you guys are not gonna be
helpful if you’re like dead. – Absolutely.
– You need to like, relax, meditate, he’s just saying, hey, I see a shrink, I see
you know, a psychologist, psychiatrist, I use this app, I do things. Like he totally is
like, you have families. See ’em, or they’re not
gonna be there anymore. And it’s like, I don’t have
a family so I’m a little more flexible that way but
still, I need to get sleep. And like, if that’s really,
if it’s that simple, that’s why I can’t remember anything, I don’t read books ’cause
I don’t remember ’em. Literally, it’s like what’s the point? 20 minutes later, what I was reading. Unless it’s something that
I, I struggle to do that. Why do people read books?
– Well I don’t enjoy reading. I don’t enjoy reading,
so funny story about me. My father loves reading. He has some sort of advanced
degree in some sort of I don’t know, literature
composition something or other. I hate reading. And they use to mandatory, put me on a mandatory
summer reading program, and I would sit in my
room, and sit at the window and look out the window
and just wish how I could be outside playing ’cause
I really hate reading. I am turning 39 next week,
in two weeks, yeah 39, and, – Happy birthday. – I know, thank you. And I still hate reading,
and my dad use to tell my mom that he never thought I was
gonna graduate from college because I hate reading
because he likes reading and he couldn’t understand
why if he likes reading, why do I not like reading. Well I’m the only person in my family that has a doctorate
degree, and I hate reading. I don’t make my children read. They read at school, they
don’t need to read at home. And why am I gonna make you
do something I hate to do? And I turned out okay.
– Well I’m gonna, I’m gonna throw that back at you with, I suck at writing so bad that
if I didn’t have Grammarly on, I would literally look
like a two-year-old. And I type to Brian, Brian
types like a normal person. I literally struggle with words. So I literally have people
around me doing titles and sentences, and when
I type to Brian it’s like caps and misspelled, I can’t,
cheats, I before E before, or whatever, I before, I don’t
even know, but it doesn’t, when I’m typing, I type
100 words a minute, and it’s just like
that’s it, translate it, I don’t give a shit. So, Brian just kind of laughs, and I have actually got people around me to help with writing, so
not exactly your same story, it’s just something that
I have had to overcome. I’m good at doing other stuff, so I’m not gonna let
these things slow down. So actually, it has nothing
to do with your story, but. – No, it does. But, so going back to you saying
you struggle with sleeping. I don’t, I have told a handful of people this that also struggle with it, and one of my veteran
patients, and I, actually, I was working as a contractor on base. And so, and I can’t use it. But, I know that it is
effective for some people, so I can’t speak off of personal use, but a lot of people say CBD
is all the rage right now, but CBD is suppose to help, CBD oil or CBD cream or whatever. I don’t know, smoking a joint (chuckles) is suppose to be very helpful. It’s all the rage where people can, well I guess you can get,
you can do CBD creams and oils now, I think in every state. But people say that it helps. I can’t speak of it
’cause I haven’t tried, but anyways, just a little
nugget in case you have tried it or haven’t tried it and you’re
like, maybe that’ll work. You don’t know until you try it. – Yeah I, for me I guess I’m like, I am less, I’m becoming less
fearful of the VA thing, and I just, that’s been, I have
this little personal thing. A long time ago I heard somebody like took a piss test in the 90s and
got his benefits taken away. It wasn’t like I verified this story, I just kind of heard it. So I just kind of had
that, and then it’s like, I was (mumbles) in the military, and it’s like, federal
law, marijuana is illegal, period, I don’t give
a shit what California and all the other states
including Montana are doing. So, it’s all over the board. So still, until federal law changes, I kind of have a problem
with all that stuff, but it’s more from a, like I don’t know, they’re gonna come get my
benefits or something like that. – No, so I’m the same way. And actually, I’m gonna
try to look it up really, really quickly right now. My husband, just the other night, was sitting at the dining room table, and he said that some
new federal law came out for federal employees, not
on marijuana but on CBD that has all the THC removed. So don’t quote me on it, I’m gonna have to ask my husband where he saw that. But, he literally two days
ago, two or three days ago, just said that something had changed. – Interesting. – And now, but that’s
not, that was for like civilian federal employees,
right, so like if you’re still, if you’re active duty, reserve, guard, anything like that no, but. – Yeah, for veterans, I have a friend that I moved out here to be with, be close to and have like a support system, a guy I went to boarding school with. And he has typical, got his
little shitty 20% back rating, his back’s worse than mine and it doesn’t, he just doesn’t even care about going and dealing with the VA. But yeah, he smokes weed every day, and has been doing it since he was 15. And he’s like yeah, but you
know, they don’t give a shit. So it doesn’t affect
the rating, I know that. I just don’t know what I don’t know and I’m just a little–
– Right, I am the same way. Trust me, my husband’s the same way. But I just, you know. And actually, this one veteran, no, it was the other
veteran that was my patient who, we were talking about it. And when I brought it up, he was like, he’s the same way. He doesn’t want to, he’s very kind of, I hate to use the word old
school but a little bit old school with the thought
process, how we all are, on the use of marijuana and CBD. But he said his VA doc actually
had recommended it too, which he was surprised about, but he, he kind of thinks like you and I think, like he wouldn’t want to try it. But it’s just, it’s
becoming more mainstream. I just have never used it so I can’t, people love it, I just can’t speak on it. And now I want to look up, I’m
gonna have to ask my husband where he found that because
I can’t find it right now. But as I’m curious, he said. Craig, just to kind of do a recap of the things we spoke about today, specifically, obviously, neck pain because that’s what you’re experiencing, and I kind of walked through veterans understanding what the process is. Something hurts, you go to the doctor, the VA facility or civilian
are likely gonna do some for of X-ray imaging,
potentially recommend a bout of physical therapy. If it still hurts after that,
you may get that magical MRI if you’re still feeling the pain. If you feel better from physical therapy then they’re probably not gonna. It doesn’t mean you still
aren’t eligible for a claim, it’s just we’re talking
about not wanting people to live in pain on a regular basis. – Right. – But all those conservative things, conservative being some form of shots, or physical therapy happen
before anybody would ever recommend surgery, but you’ve kind of gone through the process,
there is a process that we all have to go through. Just because you have surgery,
yes you feel 80% better than you did before, because they’ve taken out your disk herniations. However, you’re still experiencing pain today, six years later. So we kind of had talked about
some alternative options, especially from a physical
therapy standpoint, that are kind of new and up and coming that I recommend veterans,
if they’re educated on or if they’ve heard about it,
they can ask their VA doctor or a VA provider that
they’re seeing in order to help mitigate or decrease
the pain they’re in. Because the bottom line is,
is we do not want veterans, or anybody, on pain medications
for the rest of their life, there’s just so many other side effects. And we also talked about
the huge mental piece, the huge chronic pain mental piece, the somatic pain disorder
that kind of takes over when we’ve been feeling pain for so long, and how the brain will focus on the fact that you still
feel pain and you know, that is something that the
VA recognizes for veterans, and my advice as a veteran,
as somebody who’s had some form of surgery but I’m
also a medical provider, you gotta work on finding
what your outlet is. Something that gives you
that mental jolt of happiness that you can do on a regular basis. It’s not gonna make your pain go away, but it’s gonna help train your brain not to focus on this pain. Bottom line is, we don’t want
you to live in pain every day. And, finding a medical provider that looks at you as a whole person. A doctor, a physical therapist,
your VA psychiatrist, whomever it may be, somebody
who is going to focus on the entire veteran, not just
the fact that you have one, whatever X Y Z disorder it is. Neck pain, back pain,
IBS, sleep apnea, PTSD. I recommend to every
veteran that they make sure that they have a medical professional that is focusing on you as a whole, and that might include other
medical professionals that need to come in to help with
the things you’re experiencing. But you gotta get your
hands in with somebody that’s gonna look at
you as an entire person, not just that one thing that may be ailing you at that moment. So that’s kind of what
we chatted about today. This was fantastic, I hope
we can do some more of these, and I hope that I have
provided nuggets of information to the veterans out
there that are watching. And of course, if there’s
ever any questions, people can comment, and we’ll go in and we’ll kind of respond to the questions whenever we’re able to get around to it, ’cause we are busy, so. – Awesome. Thanks so much, Lara,
I enjoyed having you, and yeah, brought a lot of
insight to me personally and hopefully anybody
else that’s dealing with severe neck pain, pain in general like we touched on in all this stuff. The mental health part is
just as big of a part of it. So with that, Combat
Craig and Lara Chase out.

16 thoughts on “Are You a Veteran Suffering From Back & Neck Pain? Here’s How To Apply For Benefits!

  1. This is exactly what I needed to see. Been suffering from some pretty awful back pain and just recently went to the doctor. Told them about the numbness and tingling and got an MRI scheduled.
    Thanks Combat Craig for linking up with Lara on this one. You guys covered everything!

    Great video!

  2. wow…pretty, smart and a vet..can't go wrong…thank you for this subject….all these I currently have and are service connected neck/cervical and thorolumbar and secondaries like radiculopathy …both side of the body….thanks again for this video…we all need this info

  3. I NEED YOU…I AM VIETNAM ERA AND FRACTURED MY BACK ON DUTY IN THE MARINES. I HAVE HAD BACK PAIN FOR LITERALY 40 YEARS…I HAVE HAD NUMEROUS MRIs COMPLETED OVER THE YEARS THE LAST ONE WAS DONE 2 YEARS AGO AT THE FT MEADE VA, THEY TOLD ME IT IS ONE OF THE WORST MRIs THEY HAVE SEEN IN DECADE. I SEE A NEURO SURGEON IN RAPID CITY WHO WANTS TO DO SURGERY…..PS..THIS WAS GREAT INFO!

  4. QUESTION….CAN YOU GUYS HELP A WORLD WAR 2 ARMY VETERAN?…HE TURNS 96 IN DEC, HE WAS IN BERLIN A COMBAT ZONE DURING THE WAR. WAS AT HITLERS BUNKER ALONG WITH RUSSIAN SOLIDERS. I WOULD LIKE TOHELP HIM GET A RATING TO PAY FOR HIS NURSING/ASSISTED LIVING CARE.

  5. Hi I also had anterior cervicle fusion, at c 6-7 I think back in 2009 with titanium cage n stainless plates n screws,, recently i fell because of my knee now my fingers are going numb again plus my neck hurts again , and bad back , somtimes we just cant win at being pain free, usually what hurts worse every day is what i feel the most too
    . Hope you all have a wonderful day

  6. Finally a D.P.T!!!…besides an orthopedist Physical Therapists are probably the best experts on musculoskeletal issues because they have to know the entire body i.e. bio-kinetic chain of how 1 joint problem affects another joint. Glad to see a DPT on the team.

  7. In 2015 I fell during night land nav while I was in the Army. I hurt my lower back/pelvic area. I got an MRI while I was in and there was a list of conditions mostly related to the L5/S1. I did physical therapy and it never helped. I got out of Army last year and still have this pain. I went to the VA and they have sent me to PT and a chiropractor. After months and months of therapy the pain will not go away. They ordered an MRI for me and all I got was a letter basically saying that it was clear. The pain is a dull aching pain that gets triggered by a pelvic tilt. I can't sit down for longer than a half hour before it starts to hurt. There will be days where my legs go numb and I can barely walk (2 times a year). Since my MRI came back my VA Doc is blowing me off basically saying that since theres nothing on the MRI then its not hurt. My pelvic specialist tells me the opposite. She says there can be many things wrong and she suspects some kind of nerve damage or infringement. This whole situation is frustrating.

  8. Doctors in Germany don''t do an MRI unless you get aggressive with them and aggitated. Found that out when I broke 2 of my ribs in my sleep no idea to this day how that happened, They kept issuing ultrasounds and x-rays over and over again. They even took my gal bladder thinking it was gal stones that was causing my pain, after the recovery from that operation they did more ultrasounds and x-rays still not seeing anything I got angry with them and said do an MRI or send me to jail finally I got that MRI, Hospitals don't like shelling out the cost for MRI's, They came back with the results and said oh you have two broken ribs, granted I had to heal up naturally it's a shame I lost my gal bladder now I have IBS from that. So needless to say trusting doctors is an issue for me by far. I have had lower back pain since in the service went to the clinics on bases and reported it but nothing ever came from it even says backache in my medical records, now I have a hard time sitting up, even lying down it hurts all the time. That and the chronic achilles tendons pain I have has kept me jobless over in europe living off of less than $300 a month for the last 10 years having to have my ex wife buy food for me or get it from charities because I can't hold a job down, been getting laid off because I can barely move after 8 hrs of working I take 1hr and 30m to walk a 20min distance. I had surgery on my left Achilles tendon and a bone spur removed on the 23rd of August and now my biggest struggle is the mental shit i'm going through being broken the past 10 years of my imaginary life. My daughter has missed out on going outside and running around with me and playing and has called me lazy because she doesn't comprehend the pain. I'm at the end of my wits but i've set up for a Psych eval on the 11th of December so all i can do is wait. Probably too much information but I don't care been holding my story back for ages out of lack of trust in other humans.

  9. Very informative, I have to do this in order to make it through the day. This video puts everything into perspective for me, great work.

  10. I have struggled with back pain since the military in 2000 i had l-4 and l5 fused , but had to do thru a private doctor with my ex wifes insurance , the va woukd not address it , now fast forward i am suffering upper back pain and neck pain , the dav in Puerto rico say i need a new dbq , its hard enought getting these doctors here to do much , i had an mri they said i had issues then when i went to pt they stated nothing in record but lower back pain , the mri was supposedly the entire lowee to neck .
    The other issue here is many these doctors and others seem to not understand in english what some of us try to explain. So i wonder if they are pushing some things under the rug to avoid dealing with it

  11. Lara this is one of the best, down to earth descriptions I've ever heard about spinal conditions! The donut analogy is amazing. I started having neck problems from staring into my computer at work, had an MRI and the doctor very casually told me I was "losing tissue" in my neck. Inside I was freaking the hell out! After watching your video I have a way better picture of how it all works so thank you!

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