Relationship Between Physical Activity & Pain in American Adults

Physical Activity & Pain

Relationship Between Physical Activity & Pain in American Adults

“Motion is lotion, rest is rust”

As chiropractors, one of our primary roles should be to promote and facilitate physical activity in our patients. As discussed in this week’s Review, how active our patients are can relate directly to how much pain they experience… 

The International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP) defines pain as “An unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with, or resembling that associated with, actual or potential tissue damage”. We generally divide pain into acute or chronic based on time (or duration), and generally assume acute pain to be related to noxious stimuli causing nociceptive activation which can give rise to pain experiences to protect the organism. Chronic pain (CP) is generally considered to be persistent or recurring pain lasting longer than 3-6 months, and often lacking any identifiable pathophysiological or pathoanatomical cause. 

Physical activity (PA) is often recommended for those with CP, however, most individuals, with or without CP, do not meet the PA guidelines, currently defined as follows:

  1. 150-300 minutes of moderate-intensity cardiorespiratory activity/week or;
  2. 75-150 minutes of vigorous cardiorespiratory activity/week or:
  3. An equivalent combination of 1 and 2, and;
  4. 2 days per week of resistance training for all major muscle groups. 

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) states that only 23.2% of US adults over 18 years of age meet these guidelines. Data from other countries have found that individuals with CP also fail to meet the minimal recommendations for PA. Prior data also shows that PA can help to modulate individuals’ pain experience and mitigate the risk of the development of CP. Finally, meeting PA guidelines and minimizing sedentary behaviour is an important variable in the overall holistic health and well-being of individuals with pain to minimize their long-term risk for chronic disease and maintain functional ability throughout life.

This study aimed to assess the relationship between PA levels and pain. In addition, the authors aimed to assess the prevalence of pain based on frequency and intensity, PA levels, healthcare-seeking behaviours, and pain impact on daily living and working activities. Finally, they aimed to explore how descriptive characteristics can moderate PA engagement and pain reporting. The authors hypothesized that individuals living with pain were less likely to meet PA guidelines compared to those without pain.  

This paper was published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise (2023) and this Review is posted in Recent Reviews, Chronic Pain, Clinical Practice, Rehabilitation and the 2023 Archive.

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