Thousands of Minnesota soldiers are returning from war with chronic pain from injuries that leave many of them impaired and even disabled.
An analysis by Minnesota Public Radio of Department of Veterans Affairs data shows a steep increase in such injuries over the last decade.
For example, doctors at VA hospitals in Minneapolis, St. Cloud, Fargo, N.D., and Sioux Falls, S.D., saw veterans with joint disorders at least 35,000 times in 2012, a 133 percent increase over 2003.
Nationally, according to a government report, musculoskeletal conditions were the No. 1 service-connected disability for veterans every year from 2007 to 2011.
Although some soldiers are injured in combat, others are hurt doing dangerous jobs, and some have pain caused by carrying the heavy weight of the very equipment meant to protect them.