An analysis of data from more than 10,000 participants shows that all physically active people had a higher pain tolerance compared to sedentary people and that people who were more active had a higher level of pain tolerance.
Previous studies have suggested the possibility that routinely engaging in a higher level of physical activity may help prevent or alleviate chronic pain by increasing pain tolerance. However, most studies on this topic have been small or have targeted small groups of people.
To help shed light on the connection between pain tolerance and physical activity, the researchers analyzed data from 10,732 people who participated in the Tromsø Study, a large population-based survey study that is conducted regularly.
The researchers used data from 2 rounds of the Tromsø Study, 1 conducted between 2007 and 2008 and the other between 2015 and 2016. The data included self-reported physical activity levels and pain tolerance levels, assessed in a test that involved immersing one of your hands in cold water.
A statistical analysis of the data revealed that people who reported being physically active in either round of the study had higher pain tolerance compared to people who reported being sedentary in both rounds of the study.
People with higher levels of total activity had a higher pain tolerance, and people with a higher level of activity from 2015 to 2016 compared to 2007 to 2008 had a higher overall level of pain tolerance.
Analysis did not indicate a statistically significant connection between activity level and changes in pain tolerance between the 2 study rounds. It does, however, indicate that staying physically active, staying active, or increasing activity is associated with increased pain tolerance.
Based on the results, the researchers indicate that increasing physical activity may well be a potential strategy to alleviate or prevent chronic pain. Getting or staying physically active over time can help improve pain tolerance.
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