PRIMARY OBJECTIVES: To describe the association between mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) and pain intensity and pain interference outcomes while accounting for potential confounders and mediators including environmental factors and comorbidities in a cohort of US Veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
RESEARCH DESIGN: Cross-sectional snapshot of baseline data from a prospective, longitudinal study.
METHODS: Effects of mTBI on pain intensity and pain interference were compared between participants with or without mTBI exposure. Data were analysed using covariate-adjusted regression analyses as well as structural equation modelling (SEM) methods to assess the robustness of findings across different modelling assumptions. As results of the two approaches were consistent with respect to the overall association between mTBI exposure and pain, the results focus primarily on the SEM findings.
RESULTS: The mTBI exposed group reported significantly greater indices of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety and sleep disturbance. After accounting for other factors, mTBI exposure was significantly, but indirectly associated with the pain interference and pain intensity outcomes.
CONCLUSIONS: mTBI is strongly associated with pain intensity and pain interference in this sample. However, the effect appears to be mediated by other common mTBI comorbidities: PTSD, depression, anxiety and sleep disturbance.