How MSK Problems Affect Sleep

Why Sword
February 13, 2023
Sleep and MSK

We all know that sleep has a profound effect on your health and overall well-being. When pain makes it difficult to get a good night’s rest, it can affect nearly every aspect of your life, from your work productivity to your personal relationships.

Research shows that pain and sleep have a bidirectional relationship. Chronic pain disturbs sleep, while sleep quality significantly predicts greater reports of pain. Since sleep is so vital for good health, this is a critical quality of life issue to resolve for people living with pain. This is also a cost-saving issue: Research shows that poor sleep quality costs businesses $1,967 per employee per year in lost productivity.

In Sword Health’s mission to free the world from pain, we recognize that pain affects all areas of a sufferer’s life. A person in pain becomes less active, sleeps less, and may become overweight. Each of these in turn will affect relationships, work productivity, and life satisfaction. Thus our mission isn’t just to make individuals “feel better” but to live fuller, happier lives.

We invest heavily in research to ensure that our work really is having an impact. That’s why we’ve published more clinical studies and randomized control trials than anyone in the industry. Our clinical integrity is one of our company pillars.

In January, the research team at Sword published, "Sleep Disturbance in Musculoskeletal Conditions: Impact of a Digital Care Program” in the Journal of Pain Research. In this paper, we demonstrated for the first time that a digital physical therapy program can significantly improve our participant's sleep disturbances. With reduced pain and better sleep quality, participants showed significant improvements in work productivity and other mental health indicators.

How prevalent are sleep problems for MSK pain sufferers?

Pain has a powerful effect on sleep. Between 65% and 95% of people with musculoskeletal (MSK) conditions also report sleep disorders. Patients with both chronic pain and sleep disturbances have greater pain severity, higher disability, and suffer from more mental health issues. This in turn impacts work productivity and general quality of life. In short, when people are in pain, the quality of their sleep decreases, and poor sleep affects almost everything.

We’ve already seen that programs like Sword improve both physical and mental health. This research further shows that Sword positively impacts sleep patterns, increases the quality of life, maximizes productivity, and helps people return to work. While these benefits can come from traditional, in-person care, digital delivery can facilitate access, ensure continuity of care, and enhance patient engagement.

What we found

In our study, 5,749 patients reported sleep disturbance (78.0% of eligible patients). They reported significantly worse baseline levels of pain and disability than patients without sleep disturbance. Using industry-standard functionality measures of physical function like the Oswestry disability index (ODI) or the Quick Disabilities of the Arm, Shoulder, and Hand questionnaire (QuickDASH), and mental health screeners like PHQ-9, participants were measured before and after the program.

By participating in the Sword program, patients showed improvements in sleep with a significant proportion reporting full recovery of normal sleep at program completion. At the beginning of the study, more than three-quarters of the participants had sleep disturbances. Of those sufferers, more than 55% reported complete recovery by the end of their treatment with Sword Health.

These patients also reported significant improvements in all clinical outcomes at program completion. Participants recorded improved scores for pain, range of motion, and mental fitness. Engagement in the program was high and overall patient satisfaction was an impressive 8.7/10.

Overall, patients with comorbid sleep disturbance at the beginning of the study reported significant improvement in pain, anxiety, depression, and work productivity scores by the end of the program.

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Why this study is important

This study shows that Sword’s multimodal programs, which include exercise, education, and cognitive behavioral therapy, were able to effectively break the adverse cycle between pain and sleep disturbance in patients. After participating in the program, patients experienced not just an improvement in their sleep, but also in their pain, mental health, and productivity.

Notably, this is the first study to illustrate that a digital MSK care program is successful in helping MSK patients who have severe sleep problems and are at risk for a poor prognosis. The results from this study emphasize the importance of addressing not just the physical, but also the mental well-being of those who suffer from musculoskeletal issues.

Next steps

Read the full study.

Reach out to a representative at Sword today to learn about how we can help your people feel better, sleep better, and live more productive lives.

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