Vigorous Activity Decreases Pain Sensitivity in Women

Jun 25, 2012

Meeting current physical activity recommendations may be beneficial for pain in women.

Meeting current physical activity recommendations may be beneficial for pain in women. Participation in vigorous activity seems to account for the decreased pain sensitivity, although sedentary behavior may not have a deleterious effect on pain.

Ellingson and colleagues compared self-reported and accelerometer measures of physical activity and sedentary behavior with pain intensity and unpleasantness ratings to noxious thermal stimuli in a sample of 21 healthy women. On the basis of accelerometer data, patients were classified into "meets recommendations" and "insufficiently active" groups. Independent-samples t-tests were conducted to compare pain ratings and physical activity behaviors between groups.

Patients who were meeting physical activity recommendations had significantly lower unpleasantness ratings than those in the insufficiently active group. Correlational analyses showed a significant relationship between minutes spent in vigorous physical activity and both pain intensity and pain unpleasantness ratings. Relationships were not significant for moderate activity or sedentary behavior.

The authors noted that their results have many potential applications, including improving understanding of why exercise functions as a treatment for those with chronic pain conditions and providing a rationale for including physical activity assessment in pain research.

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