US Veterans Have Higher Severity and Greater Prevalence of Pain than Non-Vets

US Veterans Have Higher Severity and Greater Prevalence of Pain than Non-Vets

By Staff

US veterans know pain.  In fact, they know it better than non-veterans because they have a higher prevalence of pain, and also have more severe pain than those who have not served.

How do we know this?

The news comes from an analysis of the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) by the lead epidemiologist at the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) at the National Institutes of Health, which is the first national estimate of severe pain in veterans.  This study is particularly important because it underscores the critical importance of monitoring and managing pain among veterans.

“Our analysis showed that veterans were about 40 percent more likely to experience severe pain than nonveterans,” said Richard L. Nahin, Ph.D., lead author of the analysis.

“As well, younger veterans were substantially more likely to report suffering from severe pain than nonveterans, even after controlling for underlying demographic characteristics. These findings suggest that more attention should be paid to helping veterans manage the impact of severe pain and related disability on daily activities.”

According to a press release, the analysis is based on data from the 2010-2014 NHIS, in which 67,696 adults (6,647 veterans and 61,049 nonveterans) responded to questions about the persistence and intensity of self-reported pain during the three months prior to the survey.

Among the findings from this analysis:


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  • More veterans (65.5 percent) than nonveterans (56.4 percent) reported having pain in the previous three months.
  • A higher proportion of veterans (9.1 percent) reported having severe pain than nonveterans (6.3 percent).
  • Younger veterans (7.8 percent) were substantially more likely to report suffering from severe pain than nonveterans (3.2 percent) of similar ages, even after controlling for underlying demographic characteristics.
  • Veterans were more likely than nonveterans to have any back pain (32.8 percent), back pain with or without sciatica (12.2 percent, 20.5 percent), or joint pain (43.6 percent), but less likely to have jaw pain (3.6 percent) or migraines (10.0 percent).
  • The prevalence of severe pain was significantly higher in veterans with back pain (21.6 percent), jaw pain (37.5 percent), severe headaches or migraine (26.4 percent), and neck pain (27.7 percent) than in nonveterans with these conditions.
  • For nonveterans, as age increased, the prevalence of any pain and severe pain also increased; however, for veterans, those aged 50 to 59 were most likely to have severe pain, while the youngest and oldest groups were least likely to have severe pain.
  • Veterans aged 18−39 and 50−59 were more likely than nonveterans of the same ages to have any pain. Veterans aged 18−39 were also more likely to have severe pain than nonveterans in the same age group. However, veterans aged 70 or older were less likely to have severe pain than similarly aged nonveterans.
  • Male veterans (9.0 percent) were more likely to report severe pain than male nonveterans (4.7 percent); however, no significant difference was seen between the two female groups.

“These findings show that we still have much more to do to help our veterans who are suffering from pain,” said Josephine P. Briggs, M.D., director of NCCIH. “This new knowledge can help inform effective health care strategies for veterans of all ages. More research is needed to generate additional evidence-based options for veterans managing pain. Over time this research may help nonveterans as well.”

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Authored by: Staff

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Kathy C

The thing I have observed, which should be obvious, is that there has not been any improvement is pain care in decades. My Father served in Korea, was injured there, and suffered with back pain which got worse as he aged. He also underwent some surgeries at the VA. The most glaring thing is that there has not been any improvement in pain care. That was 50 Years ago. He passed away in the 1980’s from Cancer, The VA did relieve his pain when he was dying.
They are using a variety of Psych Medications, which are not cures, and are not effective for pain. These might be touted as “new.” They might also be touting some Steroids and nerve blocks as new. We now have better imaging, that allows these Nerve blocks, it is not really new. The Pharma Marketing of any variation of a Medication as “New” is misleading and more often than not just a marketing strategy. They are just a variation of an old class of drugs.
There are no “New” treatments. The same essential Medications they gave my father in the seventies are still essentially the same ones they have today, “New” is only a Marketing Strategy by the Big Pharmaceutical Companies. A strategy they use to market everything from breakfast cereal to cell phones.
They can change the color or shape of a cereal, then do a press release, it is ‘New.” We have become so accustomed to this marketing construct that we barely notice. The same thing is done with Pharmaceuticals, because of the Patent Laws, and the availability of Generics. This is a Billion Dollar idea, taking an off patent generic, adding another Medication, and then marketing it as “New.” We are all primed by Advertising to respond to “New.”
This Study is nothing new, no new information here at all. This was obvious in Homers time, and back into Pre-history. They are also still relying on the same Medication, opiates. During the Civil War, the carnage led to a high death rate, those that survived turned to Alcohol or Opiates. The only “New” information is that Soldiers are surviving more traumatic injuries due to faster access to Medical Care. They are also exposed to more toxic chemicals, Stress, and Explosives.
The presentation of this Study as New information really should raise some eyebrows or draw some criticism. Instead here it is on a Pain Website. This should be common knowledge, instead it is presented as “New” information. Since people have such short attention spans, and appear to have forgotten why we don’t send our Soldiers out on a whim, this information has to be presented again.


I have great respect for the military but when it comes to pain control it should be equally available to all of us no matter if you’re military, police,firefighters or Joe Blow next door. As far as doing studies it’s easier to study a specific group than the average person so I don’t believe most studies. Also as we know any study can and are skewed to get the results those doing the study want!

William Dorn

Everyone write your congressmen and tell them to leave our pain medicines alone or they will be finding a new job.If everyone would do this all 100 million people with chronic pain you will see them help us.


Pain is at epidemic levels in this country while simultaneously our nation removes access to the only effective pain relieving drugs ever invented for severe pain. My own father is a veteran and my husband as well as their fathers. All of them have gone through a lifetime of pain. We are failing those in this nation with pain period. Vets deserve priority care but pain care should be a human right for all suffering.




Pain is the most common reason for people to visit a doctor’s office. Sadly, most doctors are ignorant as rocks when it comes to treating chronic pain syndromes. VA doctors are even worse than others, when it comes to that! They love to stop anyone who bothers to get the extra training to do it as non-pain specialists. And, that is not referring to the joke that is Suboxone!

Our brave Military should never have to suffer such pain. This is a national disgrace. Without them, we would not have our freedoms. I really want to go into a rant about how his, but I won’t. HELP OUR VETERANS