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Ranney RM, Maguen S, Bernhard PA, Holder N, Vogt D, Blosnich JR, Schneiderman AI. Moral injury and chronic pain in veterans. Journal of psychiatric research. 2022 Nov 1; 155:104-111.
Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and chronic pain are highly prevalent and co-morbid among veterans. Moral injury (MI), which results from traumatic experiences that conflict with deeply held moral beliefs, is also associated with pain. However, relationships between different types of exposures to potentially morally injurious events (PMIEs) and pain have not yet been investigated. In the current study, we investigated these relationships between exposure to PMIEs (betrayal, witnessing, and perpetration) and different types of pain (joint pain, muscle pain, and overall pain intensity), while controlling for other relevant variables (including PTSD symptoms, combat exposure, adverse childhood experiences, age, gender, and race/ethnicity). We also examined gender differences in these associations. Participants were 11,871 veterans drawn from a nationwide, population-based survey who self-reported exposure to PMIEs, PTSD symptoms, frequency of adverse childhood experiences, combat exposure, sociodemographic information, past six-month joint pain, past six-month muscle pain, and past week overall pain intensity. Population weighted regression models demonstrated that PMIEs were not significantly associated with joint or muscle pain, but that betrayal was associated with past week overall pain intensity, even when controlling for all other variables. Models investigating men and women separately found that for women, betrayal was associated with joint pain and pain intensity, but for men, betrayal was not associated with any pain outcome. These findings suggest that it may be especially important to assess betrayal when treating patients with a history of trauma and chronic pain.