The Chronic Pain Experiences of 21st Century Combat Veterans Injured in Conflict: An Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis

  • Bethan Hughes

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    Survival among military personnel injured in Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts has significantly improved compared to previous wars, due to advances in battlefield trauma medicine. However, managing a lifetime of chronic pain has left a devastating impact on veterans who are also having to face life changing injuries. Significant gaps in the literature suggest a need for more enriched research around veterans’ pain experiences. This study therefore aimed to explore the lived experiences of 21st Century Combat Veterans that have been injured in conflict and living with chronic pain.

    Interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) was used to explore these lived experiences. The study included Semi-structured interviews, with 10 participants who sustained battlefield injuries whilst serving in Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts. Participants had served for the UK Armed Forces, from all three branches of service, and the elite special forces. All were commissioned and non-commissioned ranks.

    Within the findings, five significant themes were identified: Call of Duty; Vulnerable and Wounded: Who Am I? Pain is Personal: Living with Daily Pain; Healing the Warrior Within: The Journey of Transformation and Self-Acceptance; and I AM- Who I Am Now. Participants shared their experiences in the form of a veterans lived recovery journey, which included feelings of abandonment and gaps in care, and the need for supportive relationships. Further research is needed to explore veterans pain experiences; experiences of using long term opioid medications; gaps in veterans care and care pathways; healthcare education and training around veterans’ care; and comorbid conditions. A whole health model of care and pain is needed, using the biopsychosocial-spiritual model, which is transferable across all military and civilian care pathways.
    Date of Award8 Jan 2022
    Original languageEnglish
    SponsorsResearch Capacity Building Collaboration Wales
    SupervisorGina Dolan (Supervisor), Gareth Parsons (Supervisor) & Neil James (Supervisor)

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