Upcoming MEB for undiagnosed back pain


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Hello all,

This is my first post here. After reading through several other threads and gathering as much as a could from those, I decided to post my experience and ask for any insight those of you with more experience may be able to offer.

The first time I wrote this it came out way too long so I'll break it down. This will be the really basic overview of my situation so if you don't want to read any more, you can respond to just this. If you want more background/ information, I'll post that just below.

I'm looking at getting an MEB with the primary reason being chronic thoracic (upper) back pain that they haven't been able to diagnose. It's gotten to the point that it's really dibiliatating and negatively impacts not only my ability to do my job but absolutely every aspect of my life. Other present issues include plantar fasciitis, tendonosis in the left groin, and bad anxiety (had an attack that put me in the ER earlier this year) With the primary issue being chronic pain that's undiagnosed, I'm terrified I'm going to be found unfit and rated at less than 30 percent which will leave my wife and one year old son without health insurance.

If you have any thoughts or helpful insight, I'd really appreciate it!

A little background.

I've been active USN about 5 years now. About three years ago, after returning from deployment with pain in my right foot that wasn't getting better, I went to get seen and was told it was plantar fasciitis. I was put on light duty profiles off and on and sent to see orthopedic pediatry. They tried all the normal treatments but didn't have any luck.

A few months later I started experiencing pain in my left groin. I was sent to physical therapy where they told me I had tendonosis of something in there and had me doing exercises and stretches with them for a while that were rather unpleasant and didn't seem to do a whole lot.

Around this time I started experiencing upper back pain. Right on the thoracic spine between the shoulder blades. Unpleasant, but like most things I assume they'll fix themselves given time. I was also in the process of crossrating from my old job as a mechanic to a job in the intelligence community so I pushed the problem to the back burner.

The A school for the new job is about a year long and is where I am currently.

Toward the end of last summer, after finishing the move and realizing the back pain had been going on about a year at that point and was only getting worse, I went to get seen for it. My doc could immediately tell the pain was right on the thoracic spine around T5-T7 so she ordered an x-ray. It came back clear. She prescribed Physical Therapy and suggested I pay attention to my posture as she knew I'd be sitting in classrooms 7-8 hours a day.

Physical therapy took time from class that I couldn't afford to be missing, again it felt like it wasn't helping, and I felt like they weren't really taking my issue seriously so after a few sessions I stopped going and again tried to tough it out.

Wound up back with my doc seeking another treatment. She suggested the normal anti inflammatory stuff and lidocane patches. Those were a joke.

PT test came up and I was off light duty and thought I could push through it. I did, and despite the pain I managed to pass, but barely. My scores were lower than they've ever been and I couldn't do anything for the following week.

Wound up back at doc, perscribed muscle relaxers. Those didn't fix it, but they did help a bit. They knocked me out though so I could only take them at night and when I did they'd knock me out hard for like 12 hours.

Start of this year, I was finally put on a LIMDU status and given a referral to a civillian Osteopath. I've been seeing him every two weeks since Feburary. After locating the source of the pain he laid me out on the table and found I was totally out of alignment from the feet up. One leg longer than the other noticeable at the feet and knees, hips rotated out of place, spine out of alignment. He adjusted everything back in place and said I'll see you in two weeks to make sure you're still in alignment and see if you're feeling better. Every two weeks since then I've gone back in and everytime I've been completely out of alignment again. He spent several sessions using dry needling to do what he called trigger point injections, nothing helped.

Sometime in the middle of all this, I experienced the first anxiety attack I've ever had in my life. Scared the daylights out of me. About an hour into it I drove myself to the base clinic where they found my resting heart rate around 180 and my EKGs abnormal and wound up sending me to the ER in an ambulance. I've since then seen behavioral health twice for anxiety management in addition to the seminars our school offers.

I also got a referral to orthopedic pediatry to be seen for the continued issues with the plantar fasciitis in the right foot. This doc went straight to an injection which was really unpleasant and helped for about 5 hours before the anesthetic wore off and the pain came right back.

Back to the back issue
Finally about a month ago, he agreed to order an MRI. I was SO looking forward to finally knowing what was causing the pain and hopefully figuring out how to treat it. Two days later I got a call saying the MRI results came back "unremarkable" they couldn't see anything wrong and had no further recommendations. This was a huge blow. After all this, nobody can tell me what's causing the pain, and without that there's almost no chance of improvement.

After my last talk with my PCM, she said if we couldn't figure out what was wrong after the MRI she'd put in for an MEB, so I know that when we meet this week, that's going to be what she offers.

I'm ready for it. This was never the plan. For five years I've given everything to excelling with the military and I've done a good job of it. Unfortunately I can't do what I used to be able to. This back pain has affected literally every part of life. I can't pick up my one year old son and carry him around the grocery store, opening doors, steering the car, picking up a gallon of water, sitting too long, standing tong, they all cause pain. Exercise has been restricted to me paying for a gym membership out in town at a place that offers aqua strength classes made up of people in their 60s and 70s because that's about all I can take. That's aside from the foot issue, the groin issue, and the anxiety issue. I just don't see any way I can still meet standards.

Here's the thing, I'm going in to an MEB with a primary reason being chronic back pain that they haven't even been able to diagnose. Because it's thoracic and not lumbar, my range of motion at the waist isnt as effected as it would be with a lower back issue. I'm terrified they're going to find me unfit but determine less than 30% rating. If it were just me, fine. I can adjust fire, use benefits to go back to school, and make things work. But I have a wife and a son to provide for, if I'm found unfit without a medical retirement, my family is left without healthcare and that's a nightmare.

Do any of you have any advice or insight into what might like ahead. I understand this is a complicated system and at the very least I want to go into the process as well informed as possible. Thanks in advance!


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The osteopath is now thinking possibly complex regional pain syndrome.

Yesterday I had another severe anxiety attack that landed me in the ER again. My main doctor said I tested positive for high anxiety and depression needing treatment with behavioral health and prescribed two anxiety medications.

She's now saying since my MRI came back clear shes thinking my back pain might somehow be a result of my anxiety and depression.

I feel like I'm falling apart. Severe back pain for two years, plantar fasciitis, groin tendonosis, and now severe anxiety with depression that's given me several small anxiety attacks and two massive ones that have out me in the ER. Also now being prescribed Prozac and Ativan and being sent to behavioral health.

PLEASE HELP! Would these conditions be found unfitting by a board??


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I feel like I'm falling apart.
Reading this was like reading a story of my past 18 months, but torn ACL instead. That originally happened on deployment a year and a half ago. It wasn't properly diagnosed then and the extreme optempo on our return caused the propper diagnosis and treatment to be extremely slow. Fast forward to now and I'm experiencing severe lower back pain which has been going on for 2 months and getting worse if anything, worsening anxiety and depression, high blood pressure, some really scary outbursts of rage lately, and some heart palpitations. Good ol Army medical care being slow and shitty as it is, I'm getting increasingly nervous. The orthopedic surgeon who's supposed to be doing my knee surgery is apparently being sued for botching the very same surgery, and they won't allow my to go elsewhere. I'm worried a MEB is in my future, and every passing day I'm more certain I'm not going to make it to 20 years even if I could avoid a MEB.

So, basically, I'm in your shoes. Unfortunately, I can't offer any help or advice. That's why I'm here, looking for the same. I'm also terrified of a MEB putting me on my ass with no benefits for my family. It's been a struggle to maintain my sanity and composure lately, so even though I hate to hear of someone else going through something like this, it is kind of comforting.

Good luck, Chris. I hope everything turns out well for you.
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