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Papers of the Week

Papers: 1 Jul 2023 - 7 Jul 2023

Psychology, Sex/Gender/Race, Social Aspects, Translational

Human Studies


2023 Jul 04

J Pain


Pain Trajectories among U.S. Veterans during COVID-19.


Saba SK, Davis JP, Bricker JB, Christie NC, Pedersen ER


Physical pain is highly prevalent among military veterans. As stress can impact pain, COVID-19-related stressors may have heightened pain among veterans. A prospective analysis of pain could advance understanding of how veterans fared during COVID-19 and lend knowledge of risk factors important beyond the pandemic. The present study employs growth mixture modeling with a sample of U.S. veterans high in pain (N=1230) followed from just before COVID-19 (February 2020) to 12 months later (February 2021; 81.7% retention). We explored heterogeneous pain trajectories as well as baseline and COVID-19-related predictors of pain. Results revealed four pain trajectory classes: (1) Chronic Pain (17.3% of sample); (2) Decreasing Pain (57.2% of sample); (3) Stable Mild Pain (19.8% of sample); and (4) Increasing Pain (5.7% of sample). Those with childhood trauma exposure were especially likely to report chronic pain. Female and racial/ethnic minority veterans were also relatively likely to fare poorly in pain. Loneliness was associated with subsequent pain among several classes. Most veterans in our sample fared better than expected in terms of pain. However, as those with childhood trauma and certain disadvantaged groups were less likely to fare well, we add to the important literature on disparities in pain. Clinicians should identify whether loneliness and other factors impacted pain during COVID-19 among their patients to inform ongoing, person-centered pain management approaches.