Sleep’s Impact On Recovery From Chronic Low Back Pain

Whether low back pain is a relatively new development in your life or you’ve been living with chronic low back pain for years, you’re likely to have spent many a sleepless night, trying to get comfortable and trying to escape from your discomfort into sleep.

But a new study published in the most recent issue of the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health makes clear that the issues of sleep and pain are closely connected, and that in fact being unable to get the sleep you need may have a direct impact on your ability to recover from low back pain.

The study was written by Eivind Schjelderup Skarpso, PhD, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, and his colleagues. Their conclusion is straightforward:

The probability of recovery [from LBP] is especially low among persons who often/always experience sleeplessness and who also suffer from co-occurring musculoskeletal pain,” they write. Importantly, they have a simple solution to the problem, adding, “Preventing or reducing sleep problems among people with chronic LBP may have the potential of improving the long-term prognosis.

The study’s authors drew their conclusions after analyzing data gathered within the ten-year-long HUNT study, a prospective cohort study that began in 1984 and included over 120,000 people. This particular research included over 3,700 women and nearly 2,500 men, limited to participants who were at least 20 years old.

All had reported experiencing chronic lower back pain when they first enrolled more than twenty years ago. They had also been asked about other bodily aches and pains, as well as whether they had problems with sleeplessness and insomnia.

All were initially surveyed between 1995 and 1997 and then again, ten years later, between 2006 and 2008. The researchers adjusted their analysis for age, body mass index, education level, smoking and physical activity.

In their follow-up, the researchers found that 40.6 percent of the women in the study and 52.1 percent of the men had recovered from their lower back pain. Of those who did not recover, they found that sleeplessness had a direct negative correlation on the chances of recovery, with women being more impacted by sleeplessness than the men were.

The group found that the more symptoms of insomnia participants had, the lower the probability that they would recover from their pain.

The comparisons were stunning, with women who had just one symptom of insomnia had a 19% lower likelihood of recovery than those who had no symptoms, and those who had two or three insomnia symptoms having a 32% and 40% lower probability of recovery. Having musculoskeletal pain in other body parts further exacerbated the situation and decreased the likelihood of recovery.

The findings of this study are cause for significant concern. Low back pain is one of the costliest disabilities in the world, and is responsible for the majority of pain experienced. With insomnia and sleeplessness not only preventing recovery but reportedly increasing the experience of pain, sleeplessness needs to be a top priority for those treating people suffering from low back pain.

If you are experiencing pain and need help, we are here to help. Contact our lumbar spine specialty practice in New Jersey today to set up an appointment.

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