My patient with chronic pain complains of difficulty sleeping. Would improving her sleep hygiene impact her pain medication requirement?

Most likely!

We should routinely assess for poor sleep as a potential impediment to adequate pain control in our patients. Substantial research supports a bidirectional relationship between pain and sleep.  That is, not only can pain disrupt sleep but sleep quality can also adversely affect pain.1   In fact, even a short-term disturbance in a stable sleep pattern may lower the pain threshold 2 and the ability to tolerate previously controlled pain.3

These observations are thought to result from activated stress responses from poor sleep hygiene which in turn produce cellular oxidative stress and inflammation of tissues and the nervous system. 4 This process can result in a vicious cycle between increasing pain and persistent insomnia.4,5  Breaking this cycle can reduce pain and improve function, among other desired outcomes.

Ongoing insomnia may also be a sign of a variety of other conditions that should be treated, such as mood disorder and sleep apnea. For example, besides standard non-pharmaceutical measures to improve sleep hygiene, continuous positive air pressure (CPAP) can reduce pain and opioid use in the setting of sleep apnea .2,6

Remember also that controlling pain with opioids in hopes of improving sleep may be counterproductive as opioids can contribute to sleep apnea.7,8  Melatonin may be a better sleep aid in this setting. 9

References

  1. Wei Y, Blanken TF, Van Someren EJW. Insomnia really hurts: effect of a bad night’s sleep on pain increases with insomnia severity. Front Psychiatry 2018;9:377. doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2018.00377. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30210367
  2. Charokopos A, Card ME, Gunderson C, Steffens C, Bastian LA. The association of obstructive sleep apnea and pain outcomes in adults: a systematic review. Pain Med 2018;19(suppl_1):S69-S75. doi: 10.1093/pm/pny140. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30203008
  3. Sivertsen B, Lallukka T, Petrie KJ, et al. Sleep and pain sensitivity in adults. Pain. 2015;156:1433-9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25915149
  4. Iacovides S, George K, Kamerman P, Baker FC. Sleep fragmentation hypersensitizes healthy young women to deep and superficial experimental pain. J Pain. 2017;18:844-854. doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpain.2017.02.436. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28300651
  5. Edwards RR, Almeida DM, Klick B, Haythornthwaite JA, Smith MT. Duration of sleep contributes to next-day pain report in the general population. Pain. 2008;137:202-7. doi: 10.1016/j.pain.2008.01.025. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18434020
  6. Edwards RR, Almeida DM, Klick B, Haythornthwaite JA, Smith MT. Duration of sleep contributes to next-day pain report in the general population. Pain. 2008 Jul;137(1):202-7. doi: 10.1016/j.pain.2008.01.025. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18434020
  7. Marshansky S, Mayer P, Rizzo D, Baltzan M, Denis R, Lavigne GJ. Sleep, chronic pain, and opioid risk for apnea. Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry 2018 20;87:234-244. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28734941
  8. Jungquist CR, Flannery M, Perlis ML, Grace JT. Relationship of chronic pain and opioid use with respiratory disturbance during sleep. Pain Manag Nurs 2012;13:70-9. doi: 10.1016/j.pmn.2010.04.003. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22652280
  9. Landis CA. Is melatonin the next “new” therapy to improve sleep and reduce pain? Sleep 2014; 37: 1405–1406. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4153056/

Contributed by Paul Arnstein, PhD, RN, FAAN, Mass General Hospital, Boston, MA.

My patient with chronic pain complains of difficulty sleeping. Would improving her sleep hygiene impact her pain medication requirement?

My patient on methadone complains of lower extremity edema. Could they be related?

Yes! As early as 1979, case series of patients on methadone developing peripheral edema within 3-6 months of therapy appeared in the literature1.  

Subsequent studies revealed that edema may develop from 1 week  to 6 months or longer following initiation of methadone, its severity is dose-dependent, and that it improves with reduction of methadone dose or discontinuation of therapy.  Distal extremities or the face are often involved and pulmonary edema may also occur1-3.  It is often resistant to diuretics.

The mechanism by which methadone causes peripheral edema is unclear but several hypotheses have been forwarded. The high volume of distribution and accumulation of methadone in tissues results in higher oncotic pressures in the extravascular space which in combination with reduced oncotic pressures in blood vessels due to venodilatation may lead to edema.  Other potential mechanisms include opioid-induced histamine release directly from mast cells causing venous permeability, and opioid-induced secretion of antidiuretic hormone 1-3.  

 

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References

  1. Dawson C, Paterson F, McFatter F, Buchanan D. Methadone and oedema in the palliative care setting: a case report and review of the literature. Scottish Med J 2014;59: e-11-e14. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24676025.  
  2. Mahè I, Chassany O, Grenard A-S, Caulin C, Bergmann J-F. Methadone and edema: a case-report and literature review. Eur J Clin Pharmacol 2004;59:923-924. \https://www.deepdyve.com/lp/springer-journals/methadone-and-edema-a-case-report-and-literature-review-PfvnmhB1ia
  3. Kharlamb V, Kourlas H. Edema in a patient receiving methadone for chronic low back pain. Am J Health-Syst Pharm 2007;64:2557-60.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18056943

 

My patient on methadone complains of lower extremity edema. Could they be related?