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Dr. Andrew Blackman, St. Luke's Hospital

Joint pain affects a good night's sleep

Sleep is an important part of anyone's life, young or old. Benefits of a good night's sleep include better concentration, mood, immune function, metabolism, memory and learning as well as countless other health benefits. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended that adults get between seven and eight hours of sleep each day.

Unfortunately, people who suffer from joint pain from osteoarthritis may not be getting the amount of sleep they need. Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis, and it affects women more commonly than men. It occurs when the smooth articular cartilage surface of the affected joint begins to break down. This leads to roughened joint surfaces, which do not function as well as healthy joints.

Symptoms of osteoarthritis may include joint pain during or after activity, stiff joints after periods of inactivity, loss of full range of motion, swelling, weakness and cracking or popping in the joint during movement.

A recent study published in Arthritis Care & Research reports that patients with osteoarthritis reported trouble initiating sleep (31%), difficulty maintaining sleep at night (81%) and having general sleep problems (77%).

Perhaps more concerning, however, is the association identified in the study among joint pain, sleep disturbance and depression. Patients with the highest levels of pain and sleep disturbance had the most severe depressive symptoms, and sleep disturbance was associated with increasing depressive symptoms over time. Since depression affects women more frequently than men, this may be a particularly important finding related to women's health.

Typically, osteoarthritis can be diagnosed by your doctor with a simple history, physical examination and routine X-rays. And while osteoarthritis has no cure, many treatment options exist to reduce or eliminate your symptoms. These include non-surgical treatments, such as over-the-counter and/or prescription medications, physical therapy, home exercise programs, bracing and injections as well as various types of surgery, including joint replacement. Treatment of osteoarthritis has been shown to improve sleep quality and pain, which may have beneficial effects on your mood.

Dr. Andrew Blackman specializes in orthopedic surgery and sports medicine at St. Luke's Hospital. If you have knee or hip pain, attend a free class covering the latest treatment options. Register by visiting the Free Hip and Knee Talks page.

This article was published in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on March 19, 2015.