Chronic Pain is a common complaint in Service members and Veterans. Indeed over half of the Veterans returning from service in Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom report chronic pain. The harsh physical stresses of the military life can leave lasting effects. Soldiers are often required to carry extremely heavy loads of equipment and gear (which can approach or exceed 100 pounds) for long periods of time. Frequent physical training and exertion can take a toll on the body. Physical discomfort is often overlooked in favor of accomplishing the mission. All of these factors (and many more, common in military life) make it easy to see how Service member and Veterans can be at risk for issues with chronic pain.
I’ve always been interested in pain, even before completing the post-doc in Health Psych. Perhaps that’s because I’ve suffered an above-average number of injuries in my time: ulna fracture; concussion; compound bruise with threat of amputation mid-fibula/tibia; dislocated elbow; torn rotator cuff; knee hyperextension; metatarsal fracture; etc. Needless to say that these old injuries remind me they exist, dependent upon my level of exercise, sleep, stress, and diet, among other factors.
Several years ago I attended a workshop taught by David Rudd on managing suicidal patients in which he discussed former Nirvana lead singer Kurt Cobain as an example of someone who exhibited significant risk factors and warning signs for suicide. Recently, while reviewing materials for the two-day Suicide Prevention workshop I was struck by how often Thomas Joiner also mentions Cobain to illustrate his Interpersonal Theory of Suicide. In the references of Joiner’s book, Why People Die by Suicide (2005) he cites Charles Cross’s biography of Kurt Cobain, Heavier than Heaven: A Biography of Kurt Cobain, (2001). I decided to gain a better understanding of how Rudd and Joiner’s theories might look in a real person I should read Heavier than Heaven.
I often find myself asking, “What’s the data supporting that finding?” Truth be told, I pose this question not only at work, when looking at research articles, but also in my personal life with friends, family, and others. Sounds fun, right? It’s not that bad (insert smiley face). I bring this up because recently I came across an article by Matthias et al (2014), A Qualitative Study of Chronic Pain in Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom Veterans: "A Burden on My Soul," that caught my attention.