Chronic Pain and Childhood Adversity Experiences Among U.S. Military Personnel

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Military medicine

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INTRODUCTION: Chronic pain in a military population is prevalent, is costly, and can limit daily activities and affect soldier readiness. It has been associated with childhood adversity (CA) within the veteran, adult, and pediatric populations. Given the need to maximize soldier resiliency, an examination of the link between CA and chronic pain in an active duty population for a better understanding that informs treatment options is warranted. MATERIALS AND METHODS: The analytic sample comprised 32 men and 8 women drawn from a retrospective review of 203 intake assessments at an interdisciplinary pain management center. We identified a group (CA) of 20 patients who reported a history of pre-adolescent sexual abuse or living in an "abusive" childhood home and compared it with a control group (no-CA) of 20 patients, matched for age, gender, pain history duration, and pain problem. Validated measures were used to assess pain intensity, interference in functioning and well-being, emotional sequelae of pain as reflected in symptoms of depression and anxiety, and pain-related catastrophic thinking. Data were analyzed using descriptive statistics and independent samples t-test analyses. RESULTS: Differences in current, worst, and average pain ratings were non-significant between groups. The CA group reported significantly greater effect of pain on mood (mean: 6.20 versus 4.25, P < .02) and showed a trend toward higher pain interference in functioning (mean: 17.70 versus 15.05, P = .053). The CA patients had significantly more serious depression (mean: 12.65 versus 4.50, P < .001) and anxiety symptoms (mean: 10.60 versus 2.35, P < .001) and significantly higher pain catastrophizing tendency (mean: 30.05 versus 20.50, P < .03). CONCLUSIONS: Overall, the findings suggest that childhood trauma should be considered by providers when treating depression and anxiety in soldiers with chronic pain. Being mindful of trauma-informed care may have implications, perhaps, for cases perceived as treatment resistant.



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