APS: U.S. Veterans Plagued by Multi-Symptom Pain Disorders

VA pain clinicians report pain in nine out of 10 soldiers returning from Iraq, Afghanistan
By Monica Smith
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, May 13 (HealthDay News) -- The vast majority (90 percent) of returning Iraq and Afghanistan veterans come home with some pain, and 60 percent experience significant pain, mainly from exposure to recurring blasts, according to U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs' (VA) pain clinicians speaking at the 29th Annual Scientific Meeting of the American Pain Society, held from May 6 to 8 in Baltimore.

Clinical director of the VA's largest pain management and rehabilitation program in Tampa, Michael E. Clark, Ph.D., of the University of South Florida, and deputy national program director for pain management for the VA, Rollin M. Gallagher, M.D., of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, described the complicated problems, including cognitive and emotional issues and acute and chronic pain, that have long-lasting implications for veterans, and make treatment outcomes difficult to achieve.

The authors noted that the magnitude of the problem is aggravated by the prevalence of multiple tours of duty experienced by many service members. Also, the 90 percent injury survivor rate, compared with 40 percent in the Vietnam War, magnifies the VA's pain management challenge. Today, VA pain care clinicians often care for blast survivors with one or several consequences of blasts, such as head injuries, physical disfigurement and social stigma, emotional trauma, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

"The evidence is compelling that the symptoms of these comorbidities, as well as others such as substance abuse, depression and sleep problems, overlap significantly, and there is ample reason to believe they will not respond as favorably to traditional interdisciplinary pain treatment when compared to other groups of former soldiers," Clark said during the presentation.

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