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Poor sleep quality could affect improvement for neck pain patients

Relationship between neck pain and sleep could work both ways

Neck pain, like back pain, is a common disorder that can reduce patients' quality of life. For some patients, this extends into the night and may affect sleeping habits. This association could actually work both ways: the pain interferes with and makes sleeping more difficult, while lack of sleep can also worsen pain through a number of processes that require adequate sleep. If there is, in fact, a cause-and-effect relationship between these two, then it's possible that treating sleep disorders will improve cases of neck pain. Given the lack of evidence available on this topic, a study was conducted that investigated the connection between these two factors to determine their impact on one another.

Large sample of patients complete multiple questionnaires

Patients seeking care for neck pain lasting at least two weeks not caused by a disease or trauma were invited to participate; 422 accepted and were deemed eligible. These patients were given a series of questionnaires that requested information on their neck pain, physical activity, sleep quality, and other relevant variables. These questionnaires were filled out at the start of the study and then again three months later, and their results were analyzed to determine the connection between sleep quality and neck pain.

Sleep quality has negative effect on neck pain

Results from the questionnaires suggest that the poorer the sleep quality was for patients, the worse their neck pain was likely to get over the three-month span of the study. This was found to be accurate regardless of age, sex, depression or treatments prescribed for their neck pain, meaning no other variables influenced this relationship. A strong association was also found between the development of sleep quality and disability in these patients, but it was not as strong as it was for neck pain. These findings support the notion that poor sleep quality can make neck pain worse regardless of its duration, and improving sleep quality may therefore help patients with neck pain. This could lead to new strategies for treating neck pain, but more research is needed first to confirm these results and determine the impact of improving sleep patterns in patients with neck pain.

-As reported in the August '14 issue of The Clinical Journal of Pain

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