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Back pain as military aviator


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Hello,

 

I have been reading lately that back pain (especially lower) and neck pain are usually issues (sometimes chronic) for military pilots. due to many factors (seats, vibrations, ergonomics, etc.).

 

I know that in order to do just about anything physically demanding in life you run the risk of some sort of injury. Pilots certainly risk of potential permanent spinal (nerve/disc) injuries with every increasing hour they fly.

 

After all the medical reports I have been reading, it seems as if flying for 10 years will leave me hunched over and needing back surgery.

 

Just wondering if anyone had any thoughts on permanent spinal injuries after years of flying versus the reward of getting to fly in military aviation.

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I recently had to deal with some lower back issues, and my research (based on what my chiropractor was telling me to do) lead me to Dr. Stuart McGill's books. Dr. McGill spent his career researching and determining how to assess and resolve back issues so they stay away. I highly advise reading his book Back Mechanic if you have issues now, and consider his performance book if you're active. Try your local library's inter-library loan department before buying, I ended up buying new. He sees elite athletes personally and has some neat case studies. He also has a lot of helpful Youtube videos. Sorry if it sounds like an ad, it's just what my experience has been, as this was a concern for me should I apply. Good luck.

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Interesting question. I've always wondered about this. Is the wear and tear more due to vibration, time spent sitting, posture, etc? How are the seats comfort wise? With body armor?

Mike

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Interesting question. I've always wondered about this. Is the wear and tear more due to vibration, time spent sitting, posture, etc? How are the seats comfort wise? With body armor?

 

Mike

Seats are terrible and time spent sitting, especially in body armor, makes it worse. I’m sure the constant vibrations don’t help.

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You don't wear normal PCs right? Just a chest plate? At the end of my deployment my back was destroyed and I spent most of it driving an MRAP. Had to wedge a mini-pillow in for lumbar support as the genius who designed those seats just didn't account for SAPI plates.

 

Mike

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There are a few different vests I've worn. All of them can accept both front and back plates but I never wore the back. That, combined with all the survival stuff, causes all the weight to be on your chest. Add that to the control layout and long hours, and you end up hunched over. There's really no escaping it.

 

The seat-backs in the 58D were removable for flight with body armor and I always pulled them out. I couldn't fit otherwise. Lots of guys used MREs or little pillows for lumbar support. But if you crash now you're in untested territory.

 

The best way to fight against back problems is to make sure to include a very good back workout in your PT program. Stretch often, and try to maintain good posture when you're not flying. A lot of guys complain of neck problems too but talking with my physical therapist it sounds like those are probably issues caused by upper back strain.

 

I know in the 58C good posture was impossible. My helmet hit the ceiling if I sat straight up. I think the seats were much taller than the 58D and the C doesn't have the bubbled greenhouses.

 

Anyways, I have no idea what the seats are like in other airframes but I've heard in some birds they're even worse.

Edited by SBuzzkill
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Quite honestly, doing stupid things in a gym or group PT (incorrect form in the early years) did much worse for my back than thousands of hours in a .mil helo. By far.

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I know that in order to do just about anything physically demanding in life you run the risk of some sort of injury. Pilots certainly risk of potential permanent spinal (nerve/disc) injuries with every increasing hour they fly.

 

After all the medical reports I have been reading, it seems as if flying for 10 years will leave me hunched over and needing back surgery.

 

 

 

I think I learned about this in resiliency training.. I think this is called catastrophizing. Edit-I forget that nobody on here knows how sarcastic I am.

 

Anyway, here's my observation.. there are countless 60-70 year old IPs with 15-20,000 plus hours at rucker that are still climbing up to check main rotor, bending over to check the skids, and flying 3 hours a day 5 days a week. I'm not saying that they never have back pain but I think we're going to be alright.

Edited by wheelsup
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All of the hours sitting around the office in broken chairs, moving heavy stuff in and out of containers with only the 3 guys that showed up, ruck marching, riding in the back of LMTVs, lazy PT planning, sleeping on cots, filling sand bags, etc. will be worse for your back than the flying will.

Edited by SBuzzkill
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