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Fighter Pilot Helped with Chiropractic - A Case Study

A documented case study published in the July 4, 2006 issue of the Australian research journal, Chiropractic & Osteopathy, follows the recovery of a fighter pilot who was helped to get back in the air with chiropractic care.  In this case a 36-year-old male USMC F/A-18 aviator instructor with 15 years of flying experience had experienced a severe episode of acute lower back pain.  He did note a history of lower back pain but did not recall any specific traumatic incident that initiated this pain episode.

When this problem hit he immediately went to his squadron flight surgeon, who prescribed pain medications and confined him to quarters, thus grounding him from flight. The pain got worse thus landing him in the hospital the next day where he remained for 24 hours. After his hospital stay he was confined to quarters for 72 hours and then cleared to fly but sent for consultation to neurosurgery and physical therapy.

As a result of these consultations and examinations the pilot was given anti-inflammatory medication, physical therapy, acupuncture, osteopathic treatment and exercise. The patient experienced some relief but was still in significant pain.  He was finally referred to a chiropractor for evaluation.

By this point the pilot had been suffering with his pain for 4 months which he described as an intense spasm in his lower back.  He reported his pain was consistently worse in the morning and that it would take him up to 10 minutes to get out of bed due to the stiffness and pain.  He had to discontinue his regular Marine Corps fitness training, and he reported that it would take as long as 15 minutes to get out of the jet and climb to the ground after flying.  On many occasions he had himself removed from flight duty due to the pain.

By the 5th visit to the chiropractor the patient reported that there was no longer any sharp muscle spasm. He still did experience some stiffness but he was able to return to regular flying status and he had discontinued taking any medications. The patient had 15 chiropractic office visits where he received care over a 26 week period and continued to show improvement.

The case study notes that at a follow-up visit 1 month after his last chiropractic visit he was pain free and had full function. He was flying multiple training missions per week including high G flights and sorties of several hours in duration and had passed his required physical fitness test the prior week with no pain.