BACKGROUND: Wounded soldiers often experience substantial pain, which must be addressed before returning to active duty or civilian life. The United States (US) military has instituted several guidelines and initiatives aimed at improving pain management by providing rapid access to medical care, and developing interdisciplinary multimodal pain management strategies based on outcomes observed both in combat and hospital settings.OBJECTIVE: To provide a narrative review regarding US military pain management guidelines and initiatives, which may guide improvements in pain management, particularly chronic pain management and prevention, for the general population.METHODS: A literature review of US military pain management guidelines and initiatives was conducted, with a particular focus on the potential of these guidelines to address shortcomings in chronic pain management in the general population.DISCUSSION: The application of US military pain management guidelines has been shown to improve pain monitoring, education and relief. In addition, the US military has instituted the development of programs and guidelines to ensure proper use and discourage aberrant behaviours with regard to opioid use, because opioids are regarded as a critical part of acute and chronic pain management schemes. Inadequate pain management, particularly inadequate chronic pain management, remains a major problem for the general population in the US. Application of military strategies for pain management to the general US population may lead to more effective pain management and improved long-term patient outcomes.