Younger Vets Develop Arthritis, Too

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.

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11 Comments to “Younger Vets Develop Arthritis, Too”

  1. DON RADOGNAS says:

    ARTHRITIS IS A MEAN BY THE TIME YOU REALIZE YOU HAVE IT IT’S ALMOST TO LATE. THE PROB;EM I FEEL WITH MANY OF THE “OLDER” VETS IS LIKE MY SELF WE ARE BEING TREATED BY THE V.A. FOR OTHER PROBLEMS. I AM 65 I HAVE P.A.D. DIEABITES, HEART PRC.OBLEMS ARTHRITIS IN MY SPINE, AND C.O.P.D. THE V.A. IS TREATING ME FOR THESE PROBLEMS AND I AM GREATFUL. SO IN MANY CASES LIKE MINE I HAVE KNEE PAIN BACK PAIN ANKLE PAIN YOU REALIZE THERE ISN’T MUCH THEY CAN DO FOR YOU BUT GIVE YOU SOM PAIN MEDICATION. SO I HOPE THEY CAN WORK WITH THE YOUNG DUDES COMMING HOME THEY SEEM TO BE GETTING A BETTER RECEPTION THEN WE DID

    • Michel Joseph says:

      I was injured while in the service at a young age. Doctors could not determine the cause of my pain. i was complaining of back, groin and ankle pain. I was discharged from the service with back disability. Two years later after my discharge, my groin pain started to get worse. I went to a specialist who told me that I have degenerative arthritis on both hips. Some days, I could not bear the pain. I try my best to stay away from pain medications because of addiction. So I hope the VA can better diagnose these young soldiers before their pain get worse.

      • Joe C. says:

        It makes me sad to hear about situations like yours Michael. One of the biggest cause of hip arthritis is actually hip dysplasia: a commonly missed condition due to complete lack of awareness in the medical community. Because the medical community isn’t better aware of this, neither is the public. The entire medical community desperately needs to get better at looking for AND treating hip dysplasia… it’s way too common!

        Check out http://www.hipdysplasia.org for more info.

        I sincerely wish you the best of luck with your hips!

  2. John R. says:

    I injured my knee while still in my 30s. I’ve had multiple operations, injections, physical therapy sessions, prescription pain killers and more prescription anti-inflammatory drugs than I can count. I still have the arthritis…it does not go away on its own. But you can’t let it beat you.

    The best approach is to go conservative, if possible. Topical rubs, ice to the impacted area, some non-aspirin meds in moderation and yes, stretching/movement help alleviate the pain. Don’t forget relaxation. techniques and even elavating the injured area. These all work. Good luck “all hands”!

  3. AKFrench says:

    I was also discharged from the service d/t chronic low back pain, which was later rated at the VA as degenerative joint disease (aka. arthritis). Conservative and alternative treatments are definately the best modalities. I am not a huge fan of medications, as they can cause more harm than good. My personal favorite, is massage therapy (to go along with exercise)…this has helped me the most. I only wish the VA would recognize it as a therapeutic treatment and offer it!

  4. Barry says:

    Yeah, say anything about pain to your primary care nurse (dr’s dont exist as far as I see) and they will say you are too young to be this much in pain… No joke they even wrote that in my medical records. They will take your meds away then plan pt and “specialists” appts that somehow never get made, hell I was even told my piss tests dont show any meds in them – nevermind my ex ditched me in part cause I take pain meds.

    Any references you make during the claim process will be met with “never made claim in service” or no record of treatment for pain in indicated area and then they will make veiled threats that since the spot you were stabbed hasn’t been mentioned in a visit it must be better too… Or better yet they charge you for meds cause you mentioned you back and shoulder and only your shoulder is service connected therefore docking your disability pay… For all the good the VA has done for me, the same two letters have haunted my days with tiny mistakes that feel literally life crushing.

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  6. Pattie Matheson says:

    “Arthritis only gets worse with age, so take care of yourself before it becomes a bigger problem.”

    Oh lordy, does it ever!!

    ~P~

  7. William E. says:

    I have arthiritis up the spine, in the hips and hands. Hurts like the devil. Don’t think they are gonna give me service connected on it though.

  8. Yeah, say anything about pain to your primary care nurse (dr’s dont exist as far as I see) and they will say you are too young to be this much in pain… No joke they even wrote that in my medical records. They will take your meds away then plan pt and “specialists” appts that somehow never get made, hell I was even told my piss tests dont show any meds in them – nevermind my ex ditched me in part cause I take pain meds.

  9. Stan says:

    Im currently getting discharged from the navy in Norfolk va for my rheumatoid arthritus. I hated the treatment I recieved while enlisted from the naval hospital. All they did was give me NSAID’s,ran through every anti inflammatory drug on the market, and gave me a nice ulcer to go along with it. The only real beneficial therapy I recieved was through acupuncture and holistic means, ones that didn’t have the small side affect of death. (which they prescribed me so many diff drugs at once my VERY green rheumatologist gave me two that together could of killed me if I hadn’t been taking an active stance on my disease) so to all of those who are beginning or in the middle of this process of learning what treatment works for you, your best friend is the word NO. Many va hospitals are learning ones , don’t let yourself become someone’s guinea pig for their education. There is a way to be compliently in-compliment, like I said, the a holes almost killed me so do your research and stay strong.