Traumatic brain injury, polytrauma, and pain: challenges and treatment strategies for the polytrauma rehabilitation

Rehabil Psychol. 2009 Aug;54(3):247-58. doi: 10.1037/a0016906.


Problem: Chronic pain conditions are common sequelae of traumatic brain injury (TBI). Unfortunately, the incidence of TBI among personnel deployed for Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom (OEF/OIF) is significant, and there is growing evidence that ongoing pain, particularly headaches, will be a primary concern for these individuals.

Objective: This article synthesizes empirical data from civilian and veteran populations and clinical experience with OEF/OIF personnel with polytrauma to provide recommendations for the assessment and treatment of chronic pain among those with TBI.

Conclusions: The available data signal the need for the incorporation of early and aggressive pain management strategies into existing treatment models. Challenges to providing effective pain management for OEF/OIF veterans are numerous and include comorbid cognitive, medical, and emotional impairments that complicate readjustment to civilian life. It is likely that the problem of polytrauma pain and associated comorbid conditions such as posttraumatic stress disorder and postconcussive syndrome will require the development of integrated approaches to clinical care which bridge traditional subspecialty divisions. A proposed model of treatment is presented.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Afghan Campaign 2001-
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / therapeutic use
  • Brain Concussion / complications
  • Brain Concussion / rehabilitation
  • Brain Concussion / therapy
  • Brain Injuries / complications
  • Brain Injuries / rehabilitation
  • Brain Injuries / therapy*
  • Chronic Disease
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy / methods
  • Headache / complications
  • Headache / rehabilitation
  • Headache / therapy
  • Humans
  • Iraq War, 2003-2011
  • Multiple Trauma / complications
  • Multiple Trauma / rehabilitation
  • Multiple Trauma / therapy*
  • Pain / complications
  • Pain / rehabilitation
  • Pain Management*
  • United States
  • Veterans


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal