Physical activity boosts pain tolerance, reducing chronic pain risk

Researchers have found that physical activity in free time is associated with a lower chance of experiencing various types of chronic pain 7-8 years later. The study conducted by researchers from UiT The Arctic University of Norway, the University Hospital of North Norway, and the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, also revealed that higher activity levels were associated with a 16% reduced risk of severe chronic pain in several parts of the body

Doctoral fellow Anders Årnes at UiT and UNN, one of the researchers behind the study, stated, “We found that people who were more active in their free time had a lower chance of having various types of chronic pain 7-8 years later. For example, being just a little more active, such as going from light to moderate activity, was associated with a 5% lower risk of reporting some form of chronic pain later” .

Anders Årnes further explained, “The researchers found that the ability to tolerate pain played a role in this apparent protective effect. That explains why being active could lower the risk of having severe chronic pain, whether or not it was widespread throughout the body” .

The researchers included almost 7,000 people in their study, recruited from the large Tromsø survey, which has collected data on people’s health and lifestyle over decades. They found that physical activity increases the ability to tolerate pain and may be one of the ways in which activity helps to reduce the risk of severe chronic pain. The research was recently published in the journal PAIN — Journal of the International Association for the Study of Pain .

Anders Årnes also provided insights on exercising for individuals already experiencing chronic pain, stating, “Physical activity is not dangerous in the first place, but people with chronic pain can benefit greatly from having an exercise program adapted to help them balance their effort so that it is not too much or too little. Healthcare professionals experienced in treating chronic pain conditions can often help with this”.