Connect · Iraq and Afghanistan War Vets Remind of Mysterious Pain Syndrome’s Battlefield Roots

Iraq and Afghanistan War Vets Remind of Mysterious Pain Syndrome’s Battlefield Roots


In the past decade, thousands of U.S. veterans have recovered from blast injuries experienced in Iraq and Afghanistan. While such injuries often used to be fatal, survival brings different challenges; heartbreaking stories of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and brain trauma have shaped the news tracking wounded warriors’ experiences upon returning home.

Another medical complication of surviving a blast wound – shared by many civilian patients in the general U.S. population – has also plagued the unluckiest of injured vets: Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS). 


CRPS was first identified on the Civil War battlefield, where blast and gunshot injuries caused searing, unrelenting pain in soldiers long after their wounds had healed. At the time, the pain condition was named Causalgia, and is sometimes referred to as such, or classified as CRPS (Type) II. Still without a comprehensive cure more than a century later, this signature, burning pain has disabled hundreds of recent war veterans, many of whom have applied to Veterans Affairs for relief and petitioned for a unique CRPS disability classification. In my book, Positive Options for Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS): Self-help and Treatment, I discuss the realistic challenges and creative solutions for both military and civilian patients and their caregivers in navigating daily life with this severe pain syndrome.


One pain management treatment that I cover closely in Positive Options is the use of ketamine as a novel pain therapy.  The U.S. military has also taken notice of this FDA-approved anesthetic, and it has successfully treated soldiers by leveraging ketamine’s analgesic effects on combat-related limb injuries. Promising acute pain relief stories have come out of Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, DC – and are being echoed across the civilian CRPS patient community as well.


Positive Options for Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) shares the latest research outcomes and patient stories for using low-dose ketamine, along with a myriad of other treatments to help all CRPS patients to begin healing and living more independently. For some, ketamine therapy has provided a gift that no other failed treatment could provide. Let’s hope that civilian insurance companies continue to expand consideration of ketamine treatment coverage, much as the U.S. military has done so, in tackling a formidable foe – both on and off the battlefield.