NeuRA Magazine #20

SLEEP AND BACK PAIN

A new study that seeks to find improved ways to deal with back pain seeks participants.

Edel O’Hagan with a volunteer

Back pain researchers at NeuRA know that there is a shared relationship between sleep and pain. Typically, the higher the pain intensity the worse a person sleeps. Conversely, after a few bad nights’ sleep a person with lower back pain may perceive their pain to be even worse.

PhD student and physiotherapist Edel O’Hagan is currently working on a study that investigates whether using a medication, usually used for sleep disturbances can help people with acute back pain – that is, pain that has lasted less than three months.

“In this trial we are investigating whether improving sleep has a knock-on effect on improving lower back pain intensity,” she explains.

The medication used in the study acts on a neurotransmitter called GABA, which has a number of roles in the brain, but is primarily involved in calming overexcited neurons, such as those involved in transmitting pain.

The procedure involves a visit to NeuRA, where participants are reviewed by a physician and given the intervention tablets – either a sleep medication or a sugar pill. They take one tablet a night for 14 nights. Over this time participants keep a sleep diary and wear a monitor on their back to measure movements during sleep. They will also fill out questionnaires, online on day one, at two weeks and at six weeks.

“Participants don’t need to change anything they are currently doing to manage their back pain,” Edel assures.

It is hoped that this research will identify a new way to stop low back pain from developing into a long-term chronic condition.

Edel, who is part of the McAuley group, is looking to recruit more patients for the study. To get involved, email pain@neura.edu.au or call 02 9399 1618.

See what’s going on at NeuRA

FEEL THE BUZZ IN THE AIR? US TOO.

Brain and Knee Muscle Weakness Study

Why Does Quadriceps Weakness Persist after Total Knee Replacement? An Exploration of Neurophysiological Mechanisms Total knee replacement is a commonly performed surgery for treating end-staged knee osteoarthritis. Although most people recover well after surgery, weakness of the quadriceps muscles (the front thigh muscles) persists long after the surgery (at least for 12 months), despite intensive physiotherapy and exercise. Quadriceps muscle weakness is known to be associated with more severe pain and greatly affect daily activities. This study aims to investigate the mechanisms underlying weakness of the quadriceps muscles in people with knee osteoarthritis and total knee replacement. We hope to better understand the relationship between the changes of the brain and a loss of quadriceps muscle strength after total knee replacement. The study might be a good fit for you if you: Scheduled to undergo a total knee replacement; The surgery is scheduled within the next 4 weeks; Do not have a previous knee joint replacement in the same knee; Do not have high tibial osteotomy; Do not have neurological disorders, epilepsy, psychiatric conditions, other chronic pain conditions; Do not have metal implants in the skull; Do not have a loss of sensation in the limbs. If you decide to take part you would: Be contacted by the researcher to determine your eligibility for the study Be scheduled for testing if you are eligible and willing to take part in the study Sign the Consent Form when you attend the first testing session Attend 3 testing sessions (approximately 2 hours per session): 1) before total knee replacement, 2) 3 months and 3) 6 months after total knee replacement. The testing will include several non-invasive measures of brain representations of the quadriceps muscles, central pain mechanisms, and motor function and questionnaires. Will I be paid to take part in the research study? You will be reimbursed ($50.00 per session) for travel and parking expenses associated with the research study visits. If you would like more information or are interested in being part of the study, please contact: Name: Dr Wei-Ju Chang Email: w.chang@neura.edu.au Phone: 02 9399 1260 This research is being funded by the Physiotherapy Research Foundation.  
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