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Physical Activity Levels Predict Exercise-induced Hypoalgesia in Older Adults

Ohlman, Thomas; Miller, Leah; Naugle, Keith E.; Naugle, Kelly M.

Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: May 4, 2018 - Volume Publish Ahead of Print - Issue - p
doi: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000001661
Original Investigation: PDF Only

Prior research indicates that older adults exhibit a deficient capacity to activate multiple pain inhibitory mechanisms, including pain inhibition after acute exercise termed exercise-induced hypoalgesia (EIH). The influence of physical activity levels and psychological processes on EIH in older adults remains unclear.

PURPOSE This study examined potential psychological and physical activity predictors of the magnitude of EIH following submaximal isometric exercise in healthy older adult men and women.

METHODS Fifty-two healthy older adults completed a test of EIH, the Pain Catastrophizing Scale, the Tampa Scale of Kinesiophobia, and wore an accelerometer on the hip for one week to assess physical activity levels. For the test of EIH, participants complete a 3-minute isometric handgrip at 25% of maximum voluntary contraction. Pressure pain thresholds (PPTs) and a 30-sec continuous heat pain test were completed before and immediately after the exercise.

RESULTS Mixed model ANOVAs revealed that older adults demonstrated significantly decreased PPTs following isometric exercise (p=.030), and no changes on the heat pain trials from pre to post test (p>.05). A multiple regression revealed that accumulated moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA) per week significantly predicted the change in PPT following exercise (β=0.35, p=.012). Participants who averaged greater MVPA experienced a greater increase in PPTs after exercise. No relationships were found with EIH and the psychological variables.

CONCLUSIONS Older adults did not exhibit EIH following submaximal isometric exercise. However, those who did more MVPA per week experienced a greater magnitude of pain inhibition following acute exercise.

Department of Kinesiology, Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis, Indianapolis, IN

Corresponding Author: Dr. Kelly M. Naugle, Department of Kinesiology, Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis, 901 West New York St., Indianapolis, IN 46202. Email:

This research was supported by the IUPUI School of Physical Education and Tourism Management Faculty Research Opportunity Grant. The results of this study are presented clearly, honestly, and without fabrication, falsification, or inappropriate data manipulation, and the results of the present study do not constitute endorsement by ACSM. There are not actual or potential conflicts of interest for any of the authors.

© 2018 American College of Sports Medicine