How Army Veterans Cope with Chronic Pain: A Grounded Theory Approach

Catherine Hitch, Cherie Armour, Bethany Waterhouse Bradley

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


Many veterans suffer chronic pain, which may be exacerbated by military shaped attitudes to health. There is a paucity of research that explores veterans’ experiences of developing coping strategies to manage chronic pain. This study employed a qualitative, Grounded Theory (GT) approach with seven participants. The participant involvement was via in-depth semi-structured interviews (male-6, female-1, mean age-46.0yrs, mean service-17.71yrs, mean pain-9.14yrs, pain sites-7, multiple pain sites-71%). The analysis led to the development of a theory of veterans’ relationship with chronic pain (CP). The analysis produced five theoretical categories that informed the Grounded Theory of veterans’ pain management strategies; ‘Oscillating emotional responses’, ‘Activation of Coping Strategies’, ‘Ambivalent Help-Seeking Patterns’ and ‘Knowledge as Power’. The Participants’ familiarity with military conditioning enabled them to feel in control of the uncontrollable and employ practical, pragmatic approaches to managing pain. Civilian status was associated with feeling somewhat vulnerable and less in control. The findings of this study are supported by previous studies although this study challenges the view that veterans are poor help-seekers. Whilst veterans may have experiences that exacerbate pain unnecessarily, other experiences may reduce pain. Therefore, it is essential to employ a veteran-civilian approach to care management to understand the impact that collective life experience has on pain management. A veteran-civilian approach could be incorporated into personalised future pain management programmes. By providing a rich sample of data, this research provides a basis for future studies to expand upon the current theory of veterans’ relationship with CP.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 11 Apr 2019
EventNorthern Ireland British Psychological Society Annual Conference - Templepatrick, United Kingdom
Duration: 11 Apr 201912 Apr 2019


ConferenceNorthern Ireland British Psychological Society Annual Conference
Abbreviated titleNIBPS
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


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