As I write this post, I can feel the consequences of war on my body. Ceramic plates and ammo burdened my shoulders and put pressure on my knees. A sprained ankle from basic training never felt the same, especially after several re-injuries. And my lower back constantly hums from the countless stairs climbed, cars searched and walls jumped. This is just the beginning.
Arthritis isn’t simply an old age affliction. As young men and women come home from Afghanistan and Iraq, many will find themselves with the same stress on their joints. It can lead to degenerative arthritis, which is the leading cause of medical separation from the military. Extreme and sustained physical stress can cause the disease, usually in load bearing joints like knees, ankles and hips. There isn’t a cure or way to reverse degenerative arthritis, and treatments amount to physical therapy, painkillers and shots.
If you’ve deployed, whether you’re in your 20s or your 50s, assess any pain in your joints and determine if it’s possibly more than normal wear and tear and discuss with your doctor. Arthritis only gets worse with age, so take care of yourself before it becomes a bigger problem.