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A Veterans' Story: Living a Healthy Life with Back Pain

Contributed by John Scott

Photo of the skeleton from behind

I have learned how to live a healthy life with chronic back pain. One of the first things I did was to register on My HealtheVet. Since I am a VA patient, I also upgraded my account. An upgraded account happens through a simple, one-time process called Authentication*.

With My HealtheVet, I can track how I feel and what I do. I enter my pain level and my medications. To keep my schedule straight, I use the VA Appointment and my Health Calendar. I record my pain level every day. I work with my health care provider and pain specialist to set goals that helps me live a healthy life. This helps me focus on what I can do to get better control of my back pain. Keeping track of all this helps me see what works best. I also share this information with my primary care provider and pain specialist.

Chronic back pain

I injured my back 20 years ago, while in the service. Since that time, I have learned to live with chronic back pain. This pain never goes away. At first this was hard to live with and sometimes overwhelming. There were times I got angry and other times I got depressed. The pain kept me awake at nights. Plus, my provider diagnosed me with chronic obstructive sleep apnea due to weight gain from not exercising enough. The pain caused other chronic health conditions internally that complicated rehabilitating the injury. Overtime I learned there are things I can do and things I cannot do. With therapy, I learned to manage my pain and not let chronic pain keep me from living life. The goal is to keep moving and do whatever I like that exercises the body with light impact to the spine.

What I do to live well with chronic back pain

stealth bomber

To begin, I learned as much as I could about chronic back pain. Next, I talked with my health care provider. He sent me to a pain specialist to help me better manage my pain. I know stress makes things worse. When I have times I am struggling with my pain, I talk with my Pain Specialist. He showed me a different way to think about my pain. I also need to be active in order to feel my best. Not being active, I learned causes pain stress that intensifies in the joints of the entire spine requiring medication to control. To help me manage my back pain I use a low impact exercise program called Pilates. No, Pilates is not just for girls! Pilates uses inner muscle strengthening exercises designed to support the spine. Pilates also stretches joints that collect the stress and relieves the pain level. One of the benefits of Pilates is it only requires inexpensive stretching bands and a small ball to perform many of the exercises. I also record that in my activity journal. Plus, I also keep track of how much sleep I get and how long I wear the mask at night that assists me with maintaining my blood oxygen level at night.

A partner in care

Being a partner in my care with my provider is key to getting the best possible care. I take an active role in my care. I use the VA Blue Button to share all my health information with my primary care provider and pain specialist. They use the information I share with them to help me reach my goals. Sharing this information has greatly reduced my need for pain medications and other anti-inflammatory drugs that triggered stomach related health problems. If you have chronic back pain, there is help. Do not wait; talk with your provider about what is right for you.

Please Note: If you suffer from Chronic Back Pain or any health condition, see your provider before starting any exercise program.

*Authentication is a process by which VA verifies a Veterans' identity before allowing access to their VA health record. Learn how to upgrade your account by visiting the authentication page at My HealtheVet.

Active Learning

Track Health My HealtheVet allows a registered user to record and track their health information in one convenient location. You can record and monitor your pain levels, body weight and more in the Vitals section. Even see a graph of your progress. You can also journal your exercise routine and food intake in the Journals section. My HealtheVet has provided dozens of way to manage your health care. Start tracking your health today!

How to Prevent Back Pain

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Pain Management Pain is the most often reported reason for seeking medical care. Acute pain is a major symptom of many injuries or conditions. Chronic pain can have a serious effect on your quality of life long after your body has healed.

Low Back Pain Low back pain is nagging, and at times, may be sharp. It may lessen and go away, but it may also return. The pain may cause you to feel like something dangerous is happening in this part of the body, but generally, the pain is not life-threatening. Most acute low back pain will improve within four to six weeks. Low back pain is common and has multiple, often puzzling, causes. A treatment plan typically involves a variety of strategies. The goals are aimed at pain reduction and very importantly, at improving your day to day function.

What is Healthy Living? Practicing healthy living generally makes people feel good and have more energy than people who do not practice healthy habits. So what are these healthy living habits?

Taking an Active Role in Your Health Care One of the best things you can do for yourself is to take an active role in your health care. This means learning about your health, participating in decision making, and following the treatment plan you have developed with your health care team

Talk to your Health Care Provider Your health care provider is there to help you with your health, and the two of you are partners for that purpose. That means that you need to be involved in your health care and do things to make your visits productive

Updated August 16, 2012