CBT for Insomnia May Reduce Osteoarthritis Pain

By Boschert, Sherry | Clinical Psychiatry News, March 2008 | Go to article overview

CBT for Insomnia May Reduce Osteoarthritis Pain


Boschert, Sherry, Clinical Psychiatry News


SAN FRANCISCO -- Cognitive-behavioral therapy for comorbid insomnia in patients with osteoarthritis not only improved sleep but also reduced self-reported pain in a randomized, controlled pilot study of 51 patients, reported Michael V. Vitiello, Ph.D.

The improvements in both sleep and pain levels persisted at 1-year follow-up. This is the first study to demonstrate such a duration of benefit from cognitive-behavioral therapy for insomnia in patients with comorbid chronic medical illness of any kind, Dr. Vitiello and his associates reported in a poster presentation at the annual meeting of the Gerontological Society of America.

This preliminary study suggests that improving sleep can be "analgesic" in patients with osteoarthritis, said Dr. Vitiello, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the University of Washington, Seattle. "Techniques to improve sleep should be considered for addition to treatment programs for pain management in osteoarthritis and possibly other pain states," he added.

More than half of older adults develop osteoarthritis, and a majority of these develop significant sleep disturbance. The pain initiates and exacerbates the sleep disturbance, and the disturbed sleep then seems to maintain and exacerbate pain by lowering pain thresholds and amplifying transmission of pain signals, he said.

The study randomized 23 patients (18 women and 5 men) to cognitive-behavioral therapy for insomnia and 28 patients (27 women, 1 man) to a control group that received an intervention focused on attention control, stress management, and wellness. Neither group specifically addressed pain control. Each group met 2 hours per week for 8 weeks for the intervention.

Several measures of insomnia improved significantly in the treatment group but not in the control group. Sleep latency (the time it takes to fall asleep) decreased from a mean of 40 minutes before therapy to 24 minutes, and nighttime wakefulness decreased from 62 to 25 minutes.

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