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Physical activity linked to pain modulation in older adults

New research suggests older adults who are more physically active may lower their risk of developing chronic pain.

By
Amy Wallace
A study has found that older adults who are more physically active are less likely to experience chronic pain. Photo by Goodluz/Shutterstock.
A study has found that older adults who are more physically active are less likely to experience chronic pain. Photo by Goodluz/Shutterstock.

Feb. 24 (UPI) -- Researchers have found that older adults with higher levels of physical activity have pain modulation patterns that may protect them from developing chronic pain.

The study, from Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, included 51 healthy adults ages 60 to 77 who wore activity monitors for one week to measure their level of physical activity. The participants also underwent two tests of pain modulation, which are functions affecting the way pain is interpreted and perceived by the central nervous system.

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One of the tests, called temporal summation, measured the production of pain responses to repeated pain stimuli. The other test, known as conditioned pain modulation, tested the reduction of pain responses to competing pain stimuli.

Results showed older adults with more frequent moderate-to-vigorous physical activity had lower pain scores on the temporal summation test. Participants who performed more light physical activity or had less sedentary time during the day had lower pain scores on the conditioned pain modulation test.

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"This study provides the first objective evidence suggesting that physical activity behavior is related to the functioning of the endogenous pain modulatory systems in older adults," study authors said in a press release.

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Both tests showed pain modulation was related to daily physical activity, however, light physical activity resulted in participants being able to block pain perceptions better while those who did moderate to vigorous physical activity perceived less facilitation of pain.

"Our data suggests that low levels of sedentary behavior and greater light physical activity may be critical in maintaining effective endogenous pain inhibitory function in older adults," Kelly M. Naugle, Ph.D., and study author, said in a press release.

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The study was published in the journal PAIN.

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