Investigating the role of exercise and sleep in the management of chronic pain

Disease - Fibromyalgia, knee pain, back pain

Lead applicant - Dr Daniel Whibley

Organisation - University of Aberdeen

Type of grant - Foundation Fellowship

Status of grant - Active

Amount of the original award - £178,377

Start date - 5 March 2018

Reference - 21742

Public Summary

What are the aims of this research?

This research will explore relationships between pain, sleep and exercise in people living with chronic pain. The results of this work will be used to help with the design and testing of a new treatment package that will aim to improve both sleep and exercise over six weeks to reduce pain and disability.

Why is this research important?

Chronic pain is a common symptom of arthritis and musculoskeletal conditions. Most people who live with chronic pain experience poor quality sleep. Physical inactivity and poor sleep quality have been related to worse outcomes for people with chronic pain. However, exercise classes have been shown to improve pain and function, and behavioural therapies have been shown to improve sleep. A treatment package that intensively targets both exercise and sleep may result in greater improvements in pain and daily functioning.

The researchers will develop an overview of how pain, exercise and sleep are interconnected in the lives of those with chronic pain. This will be done by revisiting previous research and extracting relevant insights. The researchers will then use data previously collected from people living with chronic pain to see if there is evidence to support the links proposed. This information will be used to design a new combined exercise and sleep programme which will be tested out by some people living with chronic pain to see if they find the programme acceptable and engaging.

How will the findings benefit patients?

Results will provide new insights into the relationships between chronic pain, exercise and sleep. They will also provide crucial underpinning research to inform the testing and design of a future clinical trial that will investigate the effectiveness of a combined exercise and sleep improvement treatment package for people with chronic pain and poor quality sleep.