Health
6:07 am
Thu April 17, 2014

Injured Veteran Advocates For Treatment Change at Winston-Salem Classic

There was a time when Justin Minyard wondered if he’d ever be able to walk to his mailbox again without pain, much less participate in a bike race.

Justin Minyard will take part in this weekend's Winston-Salem Cycling Classic.
Justin Minyard will take part in this weekend's Winston-Salem Cycling Classic.
Credit Justin Minyard

But this weekend, Minyard will be among those in the field for the Winston-Salem Cycling Classic. He rides to raise awareness for alternatives to drug therapies for injured veterans.

Minyard is a retired Army Sergeant. His first injury came on 9/11, when a wall collapsed on him while he was trying to rescue a woman from the rubble after the strike on the Pentagon. Later, while serving in Afghanistan, Minyard fell about two stories from a helicopter during night operations.

He says the injuries left him in so much pain that it became the focus of his life.

As with many injured soldiers, he was prescribed a regimen of strong opiates to help him cope. Within weeks, Minyard says he was taking more than 200 mg of Oxycontin daily, along with 60 mg of Oxycodone and 40 mg of Valium. The drugs put him in a fog and left him unable to do routine things. He says his addiction had a devastating toll on his family.

Minyard says he had swapped one evil for another. Instead of the pain controlling his life, now it was the drugs. He realized something had to change when he saw a video of his toddler daughter trying to get his help unwrapping a present.

Five years ago, Minyard consulted with doctors and decided to go a different route for his pain treatment. Spinal cord stimulation uses a small pulse generator implanted in his body to send signals to his nerves. Those signals make him feel a tingle instead of pain. He says the treatment gave him his life back.

Minyard had been a runner before 9/11. He says he hadn’t ridden a bike since he was in middle school, but was encouraged to try it as a way to get exercise without putting too much stress on his body. Now cycling has become his passion.

Minyard will ride more than 80 miles this weekend with other veterans to raise awareness about the hazards of relying on opiate pain medicine to treat veterans. He’ll be part of the Race Against Pain, which raises awareness for alternatives to opiates for chronic pain management. Minyard says he doesn’t want his fellow soldiers to experience the same fate as he did.

Minyard has started a non-profit called Operation Shifting Gears to help veterans transition to civilian life through cycling.