Enhancing Physical Activity May Provide Relief for Chronic Pain

An analysis of data from over 10,000 participants indicates that physically active individuals had higher pain thresholds compared to sedentary individuals, and individuals who engaged in more activity also demonstrated greater tolerance levels for pain.

Studies have suggested that participating in regular physical activity at higher intensity levels could help ease chronic pain by increasing tolerance. Unfortunately, most studies on this subject were small or focused only on limited groups of individuals.

Researchers studied data from 10,732 individuals who took part in the Tromso Study – an ongoing large population survey study – to explore how pain tolerance relates to physical activity levels.

Researchers used data collected through two rounds of the Tromso Study conducted between 2007 and 2008 and 2015-2016, as well as self-reported physical activity levels and pain tolerance scores from a test that involved submersing one hand into cold water.

A statistical analysis of the data indicated that individuals who reported physical activity during either round of the Study demonstrated greater pain tolerance compared to individuals who reported being sedentary throughout both rounds.

Individuals with higher total activity levels exhibited a greater pain tolerance, and individuals whose activity levels in 2015 to 2016 exceeded 2007 to 2008 had an even higher tolerance level overall.

Analysis revealed no statistically significant relationship between physical activity levels and changes in pain tolerance changes between study rounds; nonetheless, staying physically active or increasing activity was associated with greater tolerance to pain.

Researchers suggest that increasing physical activity could be an effective method of alleviating or preventing chronic pain. Engaging in regular physical activity over time has shown to help increase tolerance to pain.

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