All gain, no pain: Improving pain management through exercise

May 30, 2023
The findings suggest that regular physical activity may help ease or prevent chronic pain by boosting pain tolerance. Source: Getty Images.

In a twist on the age-old phrase, “no pain, no gain”, a recent study has found that regular exercise not only promotes physical fitness but could also serve as a powerful tool for managing chronic pain.

In order to understand the link between exercise and the benefits it poses for pain management, researchers from the University Hospital of North Norway, Tromsø examined data from a major population survey study known as the Tromsø Study. This study involved 10,732 Norwegian adults and is periodically conducted in Norway.

The researchers examined data from two stages of the Tromsø Study, one conducted from 2007 to 2008 and the other from 2015 to 2016. This data included information on participants’ self-reported physical activity levels and their pain tolerance levels, which were assessed through a test involving the immersion of their hands in cold water.

After analysing the data, the researchers discovered that individuals who reported being physically active in either stage of the Tromsø Study exhibited higher pain tolerance compared to those who reported leading a sedentary lifestyle in both stages.

Furthermore, participants with greater overall levels of physical activity demonstrated increased pain tolerance, and those who had higher activity levels in 2015/2016 compared to 2007/2008 showed an overall higher level of pain tolerance.

The findings suggest that regular physical activity may help ease or prevent chronic pain by boosting pain tolerance.

“Becoming or staying physically active over time can benefit your pain tolerance,” the study’s authors said.

“Whatever you do, the most important thing is that you do something!”

Source: Getty Images.

The findings will no doubt be welcomed by the one in five Australians aged 45 and over who live with persistent and ongoing pain.

Chronic pain can have a significant impact on an individual’s physical, emotional, and mental well-being. Not only can it limit mobility, making it difficult to perform daily tasks and participate in activities that were once enjoyed, but it can also cause fatigue, insomnia, and depression.

Nobody wants to live with the burden of chronic pain given its significant impact on a person’s quality of life. Fortunately, there are ways to manage and prevent chronic pain, whether it be through exercise, medication, or alternative therapies.

CEO and Principal Chiropractor with HealthKlinix Australia, Dr. Ned Khodragha supports the idea of exercise to help manage pain, claiming that “while it may seem like avoiding activities such as exercise would allow for rest and healing, research has also shown that gentle to moderate activity and continued engagement in a healthy range of daily activities is the best form of prevention and management of chronic pain.”

Founder of Community Moves, Van Marinos seemed to agree with Khodragha’s thoughts on movement regarding its benefit for sufferers of chronic pain.

“What we do know is that movement generally helps suppress pain symptoms, so if you can find an activity or exercise mode you enjoy and something you can stick to, it should definitely help. Not to mention all the associated physical, social, and psychological benefits that come with regular exercise,” Marinos said.

“There is research to support pretty much all types of exercise for pain management. Take walking for example – in a study published in the journal Ageing, researchers at UCLA School of Medicine demonstrated that walking is just as effective for back pain relief as conventional pain treatment methods like heat, cold, massage, and relaxation techniques.

“In another study published in Annals of Internal Medicine, osteoarthritis patients assigned to a walking program experienced a 27% decrease in pain. During a post-study follow-up, researchers also found that the walking group used pain medication less frequently.”

IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.

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