Exercise Intensity Matters with Managing Pain


Recently my wife and I watched Dopesick which is a show on Disney Plus. The show is a 7 part series about the narcotic painkiller Oxycontin.

I couldn't say how fictionalized or accurate the story is but it does may make for an interesting 7 hours of viewing. 

From the various lies of the pharmaceutical company, to the addictiveness of the drug and the damage on the affected individuals, families and communities, it's quite shocking.

And it made me think that:

1. I'm glad I don't live with chronic pain.

2. There are options available that don't involve a prescription.

A new study looked at how effective exercise was at managing chronic pain.

The data for the study came from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing which spanned 10 years and included 5802 individuals. All the subjects of the study lived in England and were over 50 years of age.

Intense physical activity was the only condition that resulted in a reduced risk of suffering from musculoskeletal pain. Sedentary individuals realized the least relief of their symptoms.

But there was a catch in that the intense exercise needed to happen at least once per week. So if an individual did an intense workout once per week, and then did light housework for the balance of the month,  they would be considered sedentary. 

Besides the correlation to the need for intense, vigourous exercise, at least once per week, there were a few other conditions associated with increased musculoskeletal pain. 

These other conditions were:

* being female

* being overweight or obese

* being poor

For female, the association with pain could be hormonally related or due to lower levels of muscle mass.

Being overweight or obese puts additional strain on load bearing joints, increasing the likelihood of pain. For  example, every extra pound of body mass is 4 pounds of pressure on the knees. So when an individual loses 10 lbs, this is 40 lbs of pressure off the knees.

And poor individuals may not afford preventative measures such as training or visiting health professionals with an out-of-pocket investment required.

The take home message is to train intensely, at least once per week and stay as lean as is healthy.

Niederstrasser, N. G., & Attridge, N. (2022). Associations between pain and physical activity among older adults. PloS one, 17(1), e0263356.

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Wednesday, 05 October 2022

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