Chronic pain is a widespread problem for millions of Americans, but it may be even more of an issue for our returning servicemen and veterans. According to a recent study, a survey of one of the Army’s leading units revealed that 44 percent of deployed soldiers suffered from chronic pain, and 15 percent reported regular use of opioids to manage the condition.
Even though soldiers have easier access to comprehensive medical care, these figures are much higher than expected. A survey of the general population suggests that an estimated 26 percent of Americans suffer from some chronic pain condition, while four percent actively use opioids to manage the condition. This means a service member is more than 1.5 times more likely to suffer from chronic pain than an average civilian, and nearly four times as likely to be taking opioids on a regular basis.
Chronic Pain and Military Members
Other findings from the chronic pain survey include:
- 50 percent of male veterans and 75 percent of female veterans report that pain is the most common physical complaint.
- More than 40 percent of returning service members with chronic pain also reported having PTSD or post-concussive symptoms.
One of the biggest obstacles facing veterans with pain or mental health issues is that they don’t want to ask for help. People don’t really like to ask for help in the first place, and when you combine it with the mentality of a soldier who is supposed to be tough and selfless, it often leads to situations where they believe asking for help is a sign of weakness, which it’s absolutely note. If you are suffering from chronic pain or you just feel like you haven’t been in a healthy frame of mind lately, reach out to Dr. Cohn or another healthcare provider for assistance.
Creating A Plan To Treat Chronic Pain In Soldiers
Here’s a look at the recommendations provided by the Pain Management Task Force for helping soldiers get the care and treatment they deserve.
- Provide tools and infrastructure that support and encourage practice and research advancements in pain management.
- Build a full spectrum of best practices for the continuum of acute and chronic pain, based on a foundation of best available evidence.
- Focus on the warrior and family.
- Synchronize a culture of pain awareness, education, and proactive intervention.
The last point is key. We need to focus on shifting the culture of pain awareness and treatment from one where chronic pain patients feel shamed or scared for seeking help towards one that encourages everyone to seek active treatment for their pain. If you need help, speak up.
Thomas Cohn, MD
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