Lack of sleep - It can be a real pain

Published on
11 June 2021
Osteoarthritis - It can be a real pain

So, let’s start with why that much-needed sleep may become so hard to find. Well, it might all be ‘in the bones'!

Osteoarthritis (OA) is a common, painful and disabling condition. That’s confronting news as almost 50% of Australians develop OA - in fact, the prevalence of OA in Tasmania is even higher.  And as those who experience chronic conditions like OA know only too well, sleep disturbance as a result of pain can make an increasingly negative impact on quality of life.

Local researcher Dr Feng Pan is a Senior Research Fellow at the University of Tasmania where much of his work is focused on identifying key risk factors for chronic pain and osteoarthritis (OA), identifying the observable characteristics of pain and OA and also testing new therapeutic treatments. Generously funded by a local donor, this vital research will make a difference to so many Tasmanians.

Relevance to Tasmanians

Despite such a high prevalence of OA in our community, there are currently no effective disease modifying drugs. Not only that, but existing therapeutic drugs have also limited success and carry a substantial risk of undesirable side effects. While joint replacement can be highly effective for pain relief, a substantial proportion of patients are unsatisfied or continue to experience persistent pain even after total hip or knee replacement.

Many Tasmanians experience a lengthy wait time for joint replacement surgery, and this also results in a decline in patients’ quality of life and physical function, not to mention an increase in joint-related pain. The information uncovered from this local study will undoubtably have a positive impact on the health and wellbeing of many Tasmanians.

What do we know?

OA pain in particular is a complex phenomenon, with pain presentations varying among patients. Unsurprisingly there have been disappointing results from current “one-size fits all” treatment approaches in OA pain patients. This new study is built on recent local findings which confirm that patients benefit from more personalised therapeutic approaches. Although we know sleep problems are very common amongst those with OA pain, the true nature of sleep/OA pain relationships, as well as underlying inflammatory responses, are not yet clearly understood.

What’s next?

The aim of this study is to uncover the directionality of the sleep-pain trajectory and its underlying inflammation mechanism.  As you would anticipate, this investigation has important clinical implications for developing more personalised management strategies for OA pain patients with sleep problems. This local study has great potential to significantly improve OA patients’ quality of life while also delivering substantial relief in saved healthcare costs for families and Tasmanian communities as a result.  We all know how much better a decent night’s sleep can make us feel!!

The Foundation’s purpose is to pursue better health for Tasmanians through research, but we can’t do this without your help.

This June please consider providing a gift that will support not only Dr Pan and his team members - Professor Graeme Jones and Dr Hilton Francis, but so many other passionate researchers on their quest for better community health outcomes – it means so much to all of us.

You can help members of our Tasmanian community by choosing to make an online gift to the Foundation today. Every donation over $2 is tax deductible.