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Good Sleep can Boost Activity Levels for People with Chronic Pain

Update Date: Mar 27, 2014 03:28 PM EDT
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People dealing with chronic pain might find it difficult to participate in strenuous activities, such as exercising. Since exercise is important for one's overall health, researchers from a new study set out to find a way to boost activity levels. They discovered that the key to staying physical active despite dealing with chronic pain was to improve sleep quality.

"Engaging in physical activity is a key treatment process in pain management. Very often, clinicians would prescribe exercise classes, physiotherapy, walking and cycling programs as part of the treatment, but who would like to engage in these activities when they feel like a zombie?" the study's lead-author Dr. Nicole Tang from the University of Warwick asked reported in the press release.

For this study, the researchers analyzed chronic pain patients' day-to-day activities. They observed the relationship between how well the patients slept and their daytime physical activity levels. The researchers found that when chronic pain first manifests, many of the patients found it difficult to stay active. However, the researchers noted that the patients tended to exercise more after getting a good night's sleep.

"The research points to sleep as not only an answer to pain-related insomnia but also as a novel method to keep sufferers physically active, opening a new avenue for improving the quality of life of chronic pain sufferers" commented Dr. Tang. "The current study identified sleep quality, rather than pain and low mood, as a key driver of physical activity the next day. The finding challenges the conventional target of treatment being primarily focused on changing what patients do during the day. Sleep has a naturally recuperative power that is often overlooked in pain management. A greater treatment emphasis on sleep may help patients improve their daytime functioning and hence their quality of life."

The researchers monitored physical activity levels by having the patients wear an accelerometer for seven days in a row. The patients had carried out their own activities in their own environments. Sleep quality, pain intensity and mood were all self-reported in an electronic diary.

The study was published in PLOS ONE.

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