Journal of Clinical Psychology in Medical Settings

, Volume 18, Issue 2, pp 145-154

First online:

Complicating Factors Associated with Mild Traumatic Brain Injury: Impact on Pain and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Treatment

  • John D. OtisAffiliated withResearch Service, VA Boston Healthcare SystemDepartment of Psychiatry, Boston University School of MedicineDepartment of Psychology, Boston University Email author 
  • , Regina McGlincheyAffiliated withDepartment of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical SchoolGeriatric Education, Clinical, and Research Center, VA Boston Healthcare SystemVA RR&D Translational Research Center for TBI and Stress Disorders (TRACTS), VA Boston Healthcare System
  • , Jennifer J. VasterlingAffiliated withPsychology Service and National Center for PTSD, VA Boston Healthcare SystemDepartment of Psychiatry, Boston University School of Medicine
  • , Robert D. KernsAffiliated withVA Connecticut Healthcare SystemDepartment of Psychiatry, Yale University

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The nature of combat in Iraq and Afghanistan has resulted in high rates of comorbidity among chronic pain, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) in Veterans of Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom (OEF/OIF). Although separate evidence-based psychological treatments have been developed for chronic pain and PTSD, far less is known about how to approach treatment when these conditions co-occur, and especially when they co-occur with mTBI. To provide the best care possible for OEF/OIF Veterans, clinicians need to have a clearer understanding of how to identify these conditions, ways in which these conditions may interact with one another, and ways in which existing evidence-based treatments can be modified to meet the needs of individuals with mTBI. The purpose of the present paper is to review the comorbidity of pain, PTSD, and mTBI in OEF/OIF Veterans, and provide recommendations to clinicians who provide care to Veterans with these conditions. First, we will begin with an overview of the presentation, symptomatology, and treatment of chronic pain and PTSD. The challenges associated with mTBI in OEF/OIF Veterans will be reported and data will be presented on the comorbidity among all three of these conditions in OEF/OIF Veterans. Second, we will present recommendations for providing psychological treatment for chronic pain and PTSD when comorbid with mTBI. Finally, the paper concludes with a discussion of the need for a multidisciplinary treatment approach, as well as a call for continued research to further refine existing treatments for these conditions.


Pain Posttraumatic stress disorder Traumatic brain injury Polytrauma Integrated intervention