Insomnia Associated With Increased Back Pain

Insomnia symptoms may predict back pain in employed adults

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Insomnia doesn't just affect patients at night — they often feel tired and less focused during the day, too. But patients may also experience back pain as a result of their sleepless nights.

Patients with chronic back pain often find that their condition is made worse by the difficulties that come with not sleeping well. While back pain and insomnia have been medically associated before, past studies have not clarified whether insomnia follows back pain or vice versa.

A new study showed that healthy, employed adults were more likely to report having symptoms of back pain if they had previously had symptoms of insomnia.

"Talk to a sleep specialist if you are having trouble sleeping."

This study was written by Maayan Agmon, PhD, and Galit Armon, PhD, of the School of Nursing at the University of Haifa in Israel.

“We have known for some time that insufficient and poor quality sleep can result in musculoskeletal complaints, as sleep is necessary for tissue repair and regeneration," said Robert Rosenberg, DO, leading national expert in sleep medicine who practices at Sleep Disorders Centers of Prescott Valley and Flagstaff.

"Coincidentally, a study just published from Duke University demonstrated decreased back pain when insomnia was treated with medication. As a result, we physicians who take care of back pain need to be mindful of our patients’ sleep," Dr. Rosenberg told dailyRx News.

For this new study, Dr. Agmon and team looked at data from 6,578 patients who were enrolled in the Tel Aviv Medical Center Inflammation Survey (TAMCIS), conducted between January 2003 and December 2011.

Of the healthy, employed patients who were included in the final data sample, 34 percent of them were female. The participants were 46 years old on average, with an average of 16 years of education. They worked an average of 9.6 hours per day.

Among those who were included in the final data sample, 171 (12 percent) reported back pain. The study authors assessed back pain with two criteria: medical records and patient interviews during the TAMCIS.

"Healthy working adults were almost one-and-a-half times more likely to experience back pain following insomnia symptoms or increased severity of insomnia over time," the study authors wrote.

Women reported back pain most often. However, the study authors were unable to verify that back pain predicted an increase in insomnia symptoms.

The study’s results suggested that insomnia may be a risk factor for development of back pain. Doctors who take a patient’s medical history and perform medical exams should inquire about insomnia, particularly when a patient reports having back pain, the authors noted.

This study indicated a need to treat both sleep disorders and back pain in combination.

This study did not include a general sleep survey, which would have provided important sleep estimates, such as time to fall asleep and number of times a patient awoke during the night, the study authors noted. Also, the study may not represent all employed adults because it focused only on patients where TAMCIS was performed.

The study was published online Aug. 1 in the journal PLOS ONE.

The study authors disclosed no funding sources or conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
August 8, 2014
Last Updated:
August 25, 2014