Of the 25 million military veterans in the U.S., it’s estimated that millions of them are dealing with some form of chronic pain. More than half of the veterans registered for care with the Department of Veterans Affairs experience significant pain–pain above a four on a scale of one to ten.
Chronic pain, that is pain that lasts between three and six months or longer, is often caused by injuries sustained while serving or the effect of lugging heavy equipment for long periods of time. For some military personnel, loads can reach up to 170 pounds.
Chronic pain and veterans is a challenging issue because many military personnel find it difficult to speak up about pain. Between the tough-it-out mentality often prevalent in the military and larger issues like post-traumatic stress disorder, pain issues are often ignored. For those who do speak up about their pain, the road to relief may take years.
Veterans experiencing chronic pain should reach out to someone they trust–a family member, support group, or doctor–about their pain in order to get help.
The first step towards relief is talking to a doctor about the pain. Veterans can keep a detailed pain diary to help them focus on the times and types of pain they’re experiencing. A detailed diary may also help them isolate certain activities that may be triggering the pain. Once they talk to a doctor, veterans should incorporate the treatment options, exercise recommendations, and physical therapy plans the doctor suggests.
While the road to a pain-free life may be long for some veterans, taking the first step will always be the hardest. There is help, however, in the form of support groups and online communities for veterans dealing with chronic pain. These include associations like Veterans in Pain and Make the Connection.
Veterans shouldn’t face chronic pain alone. Many resources and organizations are there to help as much as they can.
Image by the U.S. Army via Flickr