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Sleep Disorders and Chronic Pain


Pain specialist Steven King, MD, highlights a new review that looks at the complex, bidirectional relationship between sleep disturbance and chronic pain.

Many people with chronic pain have problems with sleep. Although sleep problems in people with chronic pain are often simply attributed to the pain, we have known for years that the relationship can be much more complex.

For example, more than 45 years ago it was reported that interfering with normal sleep cycles in healthy people can cause them to suffer widespread pain similar to fibromyalgia.1

Studies have also found a correlation between nighttime sleep and next day pain.2

It is now generally accepted that there is a bidirectional relationship between chronic pain and sleep disorders and that both need to be addressed when they are present if they are to be successfully managed.

A new review of the association between sleep disturbances and chronic pain3 sought to examine our current state of knowledge regarding 3 issues:

1. Chronic pain severity and duration in patients with both pain and sleep disturbances

2. Common comorbidities in patients with chronic pain and sleep disturbances

3. Treatment options when both chronic pain and sleep disturbances are present

1. Moldofsky et al. Psychosom Med. 1975;37:341-351.
2. Edwards et al. Pain. 2008;137:202-207.
3. Husak et al. Pain Med. 2020;21:1142-1152.
4. Koffel et al. Pain Med. 2020;21:2055-2059.

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