Poor Quality Sleep Hinders Neck Pain Recovery

neck pain sleepA bad night’s sleep can certainly leave you feeling cranky and tired but it also has a significant effect on recovery from injury and illness. New research even suggests that neck pain is less likely to improve in people with poor quality of sleep, regardless of how they are being treated for neck pain.

The new study looked at 422 patients with with neck pain, some chronic, some subacute, who had sought help for neck pain at physiotherapy clinics, with their primary care physician, and at specialised centres dealing with neck pain. The patients were assessed for neck pain, referred pain, and disability, as well as for depression, catastrophising, and sleep quality using validated questionnaires at the time of recruitment and 3 months later.

At 3 months, patients were said to have improved if their neck pain, disability and sleep quality were 30% lower than at the beginning of the study. The researchers looked at any associations between initial sleep quality and neck pain improvement or disability, neck pain at baseline and improvement in sleep quality, initial disability and improvement in sleep quality and the progression of neck pain and sleep quality, disability and sleep quality.

Better Sleep Helps Expedite Neck Pain Recovery

What they found was that better sleep quality at the start of the study was associated with improvement in neck pain by the end of the study. Initial sleep quality was not associated with improvement in disability however.

Another interesting finding was that the more severe the patients’ neck pain (but not disability) at the beginning of the study, the greater the improvement in sleep quality. As sleep quality improved, so did neck pain, and as disabiltiy improved so did sleep quality. Or, to look at it another way, improvements in neck pain and disability were associated with improved sleep quality. In fact, the odds that sleep quality improved were 5 times higher in those with improvements in disability and 3.48 times higher in those whose neck pain improved.

Getting to Sleep with Neck Pain

The researchers also found that people with poorer sleep quality were less likely to see improvements in neck pain regardless of their age, sex, how much they catastrophised (if at all), levels of depression, or even the treatment they received for their neck pain.

The importance of a good night’s sleep cannot, then, be overlooked by anyone experiencing neck pain. Getting into a good sleep routine, with an average sleep time of 6-8 hours a night, could help you bounce back quicker from neck pain should it arise. Of course, pain can make it difficult to sleep, which is why PainNeck.com offers these top tips on getting to sleep with neck pain.


Kovacs FM, Seco J, Royuela A, Melis S, Sánchez C, Díaz-Arribas MJ, Meli M, Núñez M, Rodríguez ME, Fernández C, Gestoso M, Mufraggi N, Moyá J, Rodríguez-Pérez V, Torres-Unda J, Burgos-Alonso N, Gago-Fernández I, Abraira V. Patients with Neck Pain are Less Likely to Improve if They Suffer from Poor Sleep Quality. A Prospective Study in Routine Practice. Clin J Pain. 2014 Aug 28. [Epub ahead of print]

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