A qualitative study of chronic pain in Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom veterans: "A burden on my soul"

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OBJECTIVES: Over half of the veterans returning from the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan are burdened with chronic pain. Although these young veterans may have to live with pain for the rest of their lives, little is known about the struggles this new group of veterans faces, or their perceptions of support from family, friends, and others. The purpose of this study is to understand Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom veterans' experiences with chronic pain and social support.

METHODS: In-depth qualitative interviews were conducted with veterans who participated in an intervention for chronic pain. Grounded theory guided data analysis.

RESULTS: Veterans described a range of emotions associated with chronic pain, including hopelessness, anger, and fear that their pain would worsen. For some, talking about their pain was helpful, but others avoided talking about their pain, often because people did not understand or overreacted.

CONCLUSION: Although support from friends and family is often effective, veterans and others with chronic pain are uniquely positioned to offer support to others with pain. Clinically, an approach to pain management in which veteran peers are integrated into chronic pain treatment approaches, similar to the Veterans Affairs' mental health model of care, might offer additional benefits for veterans with chronic pain.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)26-30
Number of pages5
JournalMilitary medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2014


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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