Arthritis and Sleep Apnea

Jane Brody from the New York Times just published an article on osteoarthritis and the high rate of knee replacement procedures. There are many effective ways of treating arthritis, but one thing that most doctors never consider when treating this condition is obstructive sleep apnea. A study in 2009 from the Mayo Clinic showed that people with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) had significantly higher risk of having obstructive sleep apnea (50%) compared with those that did not (31%). We know that RA is associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease, and so is obstructive sleep apnea. The rate of OSA in the elderly is well over 50%. It’s also known that people with arthritis have more sleep problems in general.

Granted this study talks about RA, and not osteoarthritis, but obstructive sleep apnea causes general inflammation throughout the body, and can also involve the body’s joints. Angiogenesis and inflammation are closely associated processes in osteoarthritis. Here’s a review article on osteoarthritis and inflammation.

I’ve had patients that reported significant improvement in arthritis symptoms after treating sleep apnea with CPAP. Even if one does not cause the other, improving sleep in general can help with pain and nighttime arousals.

If you have arthritis and obstructive sleep apnea, did treating obstructive sleep apnea help improve your arthritis symptoms?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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5 thoughts on “Arthritis and Sleep Apnea

  1. Heard a woman on a medical call-in radio show complain about her cold hands and feet and a pain on top of her foot that steroid injections hadn’t helped. The podiatrist (hosting the show) never mentioned UARS, which was too bad. Chronic pain comes from hypercontracted muscles which can be relieved by deep sleep or years of relaxation training or similar treatments. I think the doc told her to try switching shoe brands.

  2. Another aspect of OSA that may contribute to Arthritis is the reduced amount of stage N3 that a suffer may be getting. This stage seems important for cellular and body repair so lack of this over time this may lead to the things such as joints and pain problems.

  3. Here’s something funny…a NY Times article from 2002 reorting knee surgery as no better than placebo (sham surgery)…written by Gina Kolata, not Ms. Brody…

    “In the study, to be published today in The New England Journal of Medicine, investigators at the Houston Veterans Affairs Medical Center and Baylor College of Medicine report that while patients often said they felt better after the surgery, their improvement was just wishful thinking. Tests of knee functions revealed that the operation had not helped, and those who got the placebo surgery reported feeling just as good as those who had had the real operation.”

  4. Hi Dr. Park,

    Before my OSA was treated, I always had poor posture. I was always hunched over. I had difficulty standing up and sitting up straight. My mom always reprimanded me for my poor posture but no matter how hard I tried I could not correct it. Now that I no longer have OSA (I have a trach), to my amazement my posture has improved tremendously. I wonder if people who have poor posture have OSA. I also injured my lower back and sprained my ankle several years ago. It seemed like they never fully healed. After my OSA was treated, my nagging pain from a lower back injury and a sprained ankle also went away. My lower back isn’t stiff and sore anymore and my ankle is a lot more flexible now and is completely normal. My hair is growing back lush and full now. It was always thin, brittle and falling out. I also no longer have weird bruising over my skin.

  5. Reading your website I’m convinced my grandmother had UARS or sleep apnea for years and it went undetected. She ultimately died at age 80 of congestive heart failure, despite never having high blood pressure or high cholesterol. She also had arthritis and other inflammatory conditions for years, and snored quite loudly even while sleeping sitting up. I wish I could go back in time to help her! She was always so interested in alternative medicine, trying new herbs, etc. Imagine if she’d lived in the era of sleep medicine (and the internet).