Physical exercise has been well-documented to have many health benefits, but new research suggests it may also help with chronic pain management.
A new study by researchers from Norway examined patients with chronic pain to assess the impact regular leisure time physical activity on pain tolerance.
Using a sample of 10,732 people gathered from a large Norway population study, researchers used questionnaires to determine participants’ level of leisure-time physical activity (sedentary, light, moderate or vigorous).
To assess participants’ pain tolerance, they then used the cold-pressor test, where a hand is submerged in ice cold water for a short period to measure their pain threshold. Participants were then tested again seven or eight years later to study changes in their physical activity and pain tolerance over time.
“In conclusion, being physically active at either of two time points measured 7-8 years apart was associated with higher pain tolerance compared to being sedentary at both time-points,” the authors wrote. “Pain tolerance increased with higher total activity levels, and more for those who increased their activity level during follow-up.”
Researchers say the study shows the benefits of physical activity in controlling and managing chronic pain.
“The main takeaway is that engaging in habitual physical activity in your leisure time seems to be connected with your pain tolerance—the more active you are, the higher your tolerance is likely to be,” Anders Pedersen Årnes, the lead author from the University Hospital of North Norway, told Fox News Digital in an email.
Some of the findings indicate that leisure-time physical activity might have reduced benefits over time, possibly due to aging. But they added the findings suggest that increasing physical activity should be considered as a potential therapeutic non-pharmacological pathway in reducing or preventing chronic pain.
The findings of the study were published May 24 in the journal PLOS One.