Jump to content
Baseops Forums
Newb

Neck and Back Injury

Recommended Posts

Posted (edited)

Hello,

I fly a jet equipped with an ejection seat. During a deployment, I started developing neck, back, and hamstring pain. I notified my flight doc and she attributed my pain to muscle soreness and suggested I wait to see if it heals on its own. Two months later, I woke up with excruciating pain. MRI results concluded that a cervical disc tore and my nerves are being “severely” pinched (annular tear, spinal stenosis, cervical radiculopathy are the medical terms). My lumbar spine has the same condition at a “moderate” level (which explains the hamstring pain). In addition, my pectoral and tricep muscles are not responding and are atrophying. The flight doc suggested immediate surgery, but I declined. I can’t prove that the ejection seat caused this, but I don’t have any other explanation.

Consequently, I was placed on a full profile for 6 weeks. My profile has since expired, and I haven’t flown yet. As long as I don’t aggravate my neck or back, I’m not in pain anymore. However, I don’t want to reherniate my spine again. I haven’t followed up with my flight doc yet, and I have an appointment with an neurologist off-base for a second opinion. 

Could someone please share their insight to what this might mean for my flying career? Could I advocate that I no longer fly ejection seat aircraft (cross-flow) to prevent further damage to my spine? If I speak up, could I be MEB’d? What questions should I ask my neurologist and flight doc?

I understand the best answer is to talk to my flight doc, but I really value this board’s knowledge and experiences and wanted to hear your guy’s opinion first. 

Thank you!

Edited by Newb
Grammar

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This doesn't directly help your issue, but i was in a lot of back pain recently and discovered some at home techniques that helped relieve quite a bit of the pain. I sent this on to a doctor to confirm that it would be safe, and they validated that this was a good technique. I hope this helps while you get all the other stuff figured out

 

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Having been through the MEB process myself, I was removed from single seat aircraft and restricted to crew aircraft. From what I saw in the process and it was a very lengthy process, it takes a lot to actually be removed from duty. I would go in with the argument that it was the high G aircraft that caused your issues and petition to be restricted to crew aircraft. Whether you can prove it or not is not as important as you think, I think most flight docs should understand that high Gs on a herniated disc is probably not the best thing for you long-term. I’ve known quite a few people go through the MEB process and Only one of them kicked out of the Air Force and she wanted to be kicked out.

Someone else can speak to this, but my assumption would be that since you are an ACC asset you would probably look forward to an ACC crew aircraft, which kind of limits your options. I’m not saying a C-17 to Hickam is out of the question, but I wouldn’t bet the Farm.

From my experience you can sway the flight docs to get what you want to get within limits and reason. The first person to come up with a plan typically wins. If you want to stay and fly I’m sure they can make a way for you to do that as long as you are healthy. If you are looking for a different lifestyle and a different aircraft, I would go in and lead with that, with the reason being that you don’t want to live the rest of your life in a wheelchair.

Regardless of what you decide realize that you are on a long path. It took the Air Force nine months to figure out what to do with me and that was with just a simple shellfish allergy.

Best of luck and keep us up-to-date with how it goes!


Sent from my iPhone using Baseops Network mobile app

  • Upvote 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Also I will add that you can probably expect a pretty decent VA disability check from all the conditions you have.


Sent from my iPhone using Baseops Network mobile app

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I had severe pain during my last deployment. I went to the doc and he recommended doing back stretches similar to the video above. He recommended doing those for about 15 mins before taking the seat. I tried it a couple of times, but all joking aside, nobody has 15 mins before missions to stretch. 9 times out of 10, things were constantly changing and everyone seemed to be running around trying to stay on target to meet H hour. Eventually, the pain went away probably because I stopped flying during all together during my transfer process to the ANG. Had another bro that had similar pains that would wake him at night. He went to see a specialist and started flying with a custom back brace type of thing. I don't think it was approved by the flight doc or flight proved. Nevertheless it helped him with the pain. I don't think you would have such options in an ejection seat. Probably the best remedy is to take a break from the seat and hopefully it will heal up. good lucks bro.  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Posted (edited)

Have the flight doc prescribe 800mg Ibuprofen.

 

(sarcasm intended)

Edited by xaarman

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, Newb said:

Hello,

I fly a jet equipped with an ejection seat. During a deployment, I started developing neck, back, and hamstring pain. I notified my flight doc and she attributed my pain to muscle soreness and suggested I wait to see if it heals on its own. Two months later, I woke up with excruciating pain. MRI results concluded that a cervical disc tore and my nerves are being “severely” pinched (annular tear, spinal stenosis, cervical radiculopathy are the medical terms). My lumbar spine has the same condition at a “moderate” level (which explains the hamstring pain). In addition, my pectoral and tricep muscles are not responding and are atrophying. The flight doc suggested immediate surgery, but I declined. I can’t prove that the ejection seat caused this, but I don’t have any other explanation.

Consequently, I was placed on a full profile for 6 weeks. My profile has since expired, and I haven’t flown yet. As long as I don’t aggravate my neck or back, I’m not in pain anymore. However, I don’t want to reherniate my spine again. I haven’t followed up with my flight doc yet, and I have an appointment with an neurologist off-base for a second opinion. 

Could someone please share their insight to what this might mean for my flying career? Could I advocate that I no longer fly ejection seat aircraft (cross-flow) to prevent further damage to my spine? If I speak up, could I be FEB/MEB’d? What questions should I ask my neurologist and flight doc?

I understand the best answer is to talk to my flight doc, but I really value this board’s knowledge and experiences and wanted to hear your guy’s opinion first. 

Thank you!

I know a guy who flew ejection seat aircraft with back and neck issues like you. He went through surgeries and stuff to help mitigate the pain. They allowed him to switch over to aircraft without ejection seats and he’s still flying  

I wouldn’t not speak up about it for fear of an FEB/MEB. I don’t think they would boot a pilot that can fly other aircraft, and flying is most definitely not worth destroying your body. 

  • Upvote 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, Newb said:

Hello,

I fly a jet equipped with an ejection seat. During a deployment, I started developing neck, back, and hamstring pain. I notified my flight doc and she attributed my pain to muscle soreness and suggested I wait to see if it heals on its own. Two months later, I woke up with excruciating pain. MRI results concluded that a cervical disc tore and my nerves are being “severely” pinched (annular tear, spinal stenosis, cervical radiculopathy are the medical terms). My lumbar spine has the same condition at a “moderate” level (which explains the hamstring pain). In addition, my pectoral and tricep muscles are not responding and are atrophying. The flight doc suggested immediate surgery, but I declined. I can’t prove that the ejection seat caused this, but I don’t have any other explanation.

Consequently, I was placed on a full profile for 6 weeks. My profile has since expired, and I haven’t flown yet. As long as I don’t aggravate my neck or back, I’m not in pain anymore. However, I don’t want to reherniate my spine again. I haven’t followed up with my flight doc yet, and I have an appointment with an neurologist off-base for a second opinion. 

Could someone please share their insight to what this might mean for my flying career? Could I advocate that I no longer fly ejection seat aircraft (cross-flow) to prevent further damage to my spine? If I speak up, could I be FEB/MEB’d? What questions should I ask my neurologist and flight doc?

I understand the best answer is to talk to my flight doc, but I really value this board’s knowledge and experiences and wanted to hear your guy’s opinion first. 

Thank you!

An MEB is NOT a bad deal. Chances of a medical retirement are great in your case. Are you a fighter pilot or a Buff/B-1 pilot? Your injuries are very common in G pullers. Write down every possible question you can think of for the neurologist. Get on a PT test exemption ASAP (no running, no crunches, no pushups, no timed super speed walk).

I and many fighter pilots hold a class 1 FAA medical with spine problems. DO NOT let flying for the AF, nor doing the PT test, screw up your long term health.

  • Like 1
  • Upvote 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If you haven't done so, get a referral to a top-notch facility if there is one near you.  

When I began having major problems, I went to Travis AFB.  Fortunately, the civilian neurologist doc there said my issue was significant and referred me to the UC San Francisco Spine Center... one of the best in the nation.  I am very fortunate to still be seen by them.  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Posted (edited)

Thank you all for the sharing your experiences and providing your advice. You guys made it clear that I need to speak up about my condition and advocate for my health without the fear of MEB.

I’ll keep you guys updated. 

Edited by Newb
  • Upvote 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I had no idea how many of us have neck/spine issues. Mine aren’t probably caused by g forces but probably due to hundreds of hours of NVG use.

I’m waiting for MRI results after a c spine X-ray revealed degenerative problems in my C4-C6.




Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

  • Upvote 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I’m an inch shorter than when I started UPT because I was young and bulletproof in a viper. 

I am no longer young and my back and neck remind me of that every day. 

Was it worth it?  Prolly. Ask me again when I’m 60 

  • Like 2
  • Thanks 1
  • Upvote 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If you don't mind me asking, were any of you doing resistance training on your neck while flying? 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
21 minutes ago, ctf151 said:

If you don't mind me asking, were any of you doing resistance training on your neck while flying? 

Those machines USED to be in every fighter squadron, all given away in the mid 2000’s.  We discovered they were injuring our necks worse than the jet.  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Recommend starting PT to see if that helps. It has done a lot of good for myself and several bros. No guarantee it will work for you, but it’s worth your time to find out. Certainly worth exhausting that option before opting for surgery. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Go to a chiropractor on your own dime. I had lumbar/cervical pain for about 20 years before seeing a chiro. AF medicine is just about worthless.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I suffered for about a decade but just chalked it up to normal fighter pilot back/neck pain and sucked it up. About 7 years ago I started having random weakness in my right arm and fessed up to the flight doc. Long story short, turned out it was due to my neck and eventually ended up having anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF) surgery at C6/C7. Translation: they took out my old degenerated disc that was pressing on my spinal cord and replaced it with a chunk of bone from a cadaver plus a plate and screws. Sounds nasty. Was no big deal.

 

I can’t tell you how glad I am I had the surgery. I’m an old school believer that you don’t go to the doc unless you need a flight physical or are dying, but in my case they said no amount of Motrin or physical therapy could ever have made me feel better. I suffered like a fool for about a decade. As uncomfortable as I was all the time, I didn’t really realize how much misery I was in until I was no longer in misery after the surgery..

 

6 months post-op I had a waiver to fly fighters again. My understanding is that one level fusion is waiverable, more than that is not. But I could be wrong about that.

 

  • Upvote 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My best friend was in an F-4 accident where he ejected because the plane was on fire, his parachute streamered, and he bounced off the side of a sand dune and survived.

He would up finishing his career in EC-130s at 20 years/O-5.   He now admits it would have better to have medically retired after the ejection, because he's constant pain and on full VA disability these days.   He gets huge jars of methadone every month from the VA.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
3 hours ago, Mikey Donuts said:

Go to a chiropractor on your own dime. 

Story time:  when I was TDY to Al Dhafra, the U-2 pilots could go in to Abu Dhabi and get massages with an American chiropractor.  Apparently, the Emir was in Minnesota a few years earlier, used their services, and asked them to set up shop in Abu Dhabi because he was impressed.  

I head downtown the day after a flight, and during my consultation with the American doc, I discussed my neck issues, explained that I had almost no feeling in my 4th and 5th finger in my right hand for the past 2 years, and he took x-rays.  Finally, I go back for my 1 hour massage with one of the four masseuses.  All four of them were from China, spoke almost no English, and apparently were pretty well trained.  

After about 10 minutes of her working on my back and neck, she has me turn over, and in broken English asks which fingers are numb.  She proceeds to work my chest, pectoral and arm pretty hard.  After about 15 minutes, she sees the tears working their way out of my eyes and in more broken English says "too hard?" 

"No!  Keep going!" 

When she was done, I felt like my chest and right arm had been turned in to ground meat.  But it felt great.  

About an hour later, on the drive back to Al Dhafra, the feeling in my fingers came back.  And it remained for many years.  I could hardly believe it.  

That experience made me a believer in massage therapy and chiropractors.  

  • Like 1
  • Upvote 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
5 minutes ago, HuggyU2 said:

Story time:  when I was TDY to Al Dhafra, the U-2 pilots could go in to Abu Dhabi and get massages with an American chiropractor.  Apparently, the Emir was in Minnesota a few years earlier, used their services, and asked them to set up shop in Abu Dhabi because he was impressed.  

I head downtown the day after a flight, and during my consultation with the American doc, I discussed my neck issues, explained that I had almost no feeling in my 4th and 5th finger in my right hand for the past 2 years, and he took x-rays.  Finally, I go back for my 1 hour massage with one of the four masseuses.  All four of them were from China, spoke almost no English, and apparently were pretty well trained.  

After about 10 minutes of her working on my back and neck, she has me turn over, and in broken English asks which fingers are numb.  She proceeds to work my chest, pectoral and arm pretty hard.  After about 15 minutes, she sees the tears working their way out of my eyes and in more broken English says "too hard?" 

"No!  Keep going!" 

When she was done, I felt like my chest and right arm had been turned in to ground meat.  But it felt great.  

About an hour later, on the drive back to Al Dhafra, the feeling in my fingers came back.  And it remained for many years.  I could hardly believe it.  

That experience made me a believer in massage therapy and chiropractors.  

Definitely a happy ending... 🤙

  • Like 2
  • Haha 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
3 hours ago, iRobot said:

Definitely a happy ending... 🤙

That’s why there were tears

 

Side note, it took me 4 different PTs, but finally found one that actually helped. Big believer now, but it’s only to get me to what will probably require an MRI and surgery 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Wright-patt medical gurus have the waiver authority for ejection seats. I have a bunch of titanium fusing my vertebrae after a snowboard accident, was DNIF 6 months but they approved a return to ejection seat aircraft saying no guarantee it would survive an ejection.

There are probably crew / RPA options for you also.


Sent from my iPhone using Baseops Network mobile app

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for the youtube link, I'm gonna try out those stretches. My back pain has been getting worse over the past 7 years and I've taken to seeing an off base chiro/pt group to mitigate the issue. This last fall I threw it out in the plane and couldn't get out of the cockpit for about 5 minutes, then after I made it out I fell off the ramp it hurt so bad. Went through another round of DNIF, painkillers, muscle relaxers, PT....just isn't cutting it.

I wrote a longer post, but deleted most of it. Here is the bottom line. Big Blue doesn't give a shit. The other services have conducted extensive health studies and aircrew surveys to try and fix the problems. The Air Force hasn't done shit.

800mg of motrin and be on your way son......

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
3 hours ago, di1630 said:

Wright-patt medical gurus have the waiver authority for ejection seats. I have a bunch of titanium fusing my vertebrae after a snowboard accident, was DNIF 6 months but they approved a return to ejection seat aircraft saying no guarantee it would survive an ejection.

There are probably crew / RPA options for you also.


Sent from my iPhone using Baseops Network mobile app

Say it with me, single seat, single engine is the only way to fly.

  • Upvote 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.




×
×
  • Create New...