Science reveals the key to curing chronic pain

If you are kept awake at night and struggle to fall asleep there is comfort to be had from the latest research that has discovered that the way you think about sleep is the key to curing your chronic pain, and i t could even help you get some shut-eye.

According to scientists at the Sleep and Pain Lab at the University of Warwick, if you believe your discomfort will keep you up all night you are more likely to have insomnia, which causes you pain to get worse.

The research team has been able to demonstrate that conditions like back pain, fibromyalgia and arthritis have a direct link with negative thoughts about insomnia and pain.

However, there is good news. It can be managed by cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).

The researchers created a scale to measure beliefs about sleep and chronic pain in long-term patients. In the first study of its kind participants were assessed on their quality of sleep to explore the cycle between sleep and pain.

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Four groups of patients suffering long-term pain and bad sleep patterns were tested and it was found that those who believed they would not be able to sleep due to intense discomfort were also more likely to suffer from insomnia.

“Thoughts can have a direct and/or indirect impact on our emotion, behaviour and even physiology,” Dr Nicole Tang, the study’s senior author says. “The way we think about sleep and its interaction with pain can influence the way we cope with pain and manage sleeplessness.”

She says the new scale, known as a PBAS, can help researchers pick up those beliefs that have a potential to worsen insomnia and pain experiences of patients. It could be used by therapists to identify and monitor rigid thoughts about sleep and pain and could support those who suffer from sleep loss by encouraging them to get more effective treatment.

Do you often struggle to get to sleep because of pain and discomfort? How long does it take you to fall asleep at night?