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Physical activity behavior predicts endogenous pain modulation in older adults

Naugle, Kelly M.; Ohlman, Thomas; Naugle, Keith E.; Riley, Zachary A.; Keith, NiCole R.

doi: 10.1097/j.pain.0000000000000769
Research Paper

Older adults compared with younger adults are characterized by greater endogenous pain facilitation and a reduced capacity to endogenously inhibit pain, potentially placing them at a greater risk for chronic pain. Previous research suggests that higher levels of self-reported physical activity are associated with more effective pain inhibition and less pain facilitation on quantitative sensory tests in healthy adults. However, no studies have directly tested the relationship between physical activity behavior and pain modulatory function in older adults. This study examined whether objective measures of physical activity behavior cross-sectionally predicted pain inhibitory function on the conditioned pain modulation (CPM) test and pain facilitation on the temporal summation (TS) test in healthy older adults. Fifty-one older adults wore an accelerometer on the hip for 7 days and completed the CPM and TS tests. Measures of sedentary time, light physical activity (LPA), and moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA) were obtained from the accelerometer. Hierarchical linear regressions were conducted to determine the relationship of TS and CPM with levels of physical activity, while controlling for demographic, psychological, and test variables. The results indicated that sedentary time and LPA significantly predicted pain inhibitory function on the CPM test, with less sedentary time and greater LPA per day associated with greater pain inhibitory capacity. Additionally, MVPA predicted pain facilitation on the TS test, with greater MVPA associated with less TS of pain. These results suggest that different types of physical activity behavior may differentially impact pain inhibitory and facilitatory processes in older adults.

Moderate to vigorous physical activity predicted temporal summation of pain, whereas sedentary time and light physical activity predicted conditioned pain modulation in healthy older adults.

aDepartment of Kinesiology, Center for Physical Activity in Wellness and Prevention, School of Physical Education and Tourism Management, Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis, Indianapolis, IN, USA

bCenter for Aging Research, Regenstrief Institute Incorporated, Indiana University, Indianapolis, IN, USA

Corresponding author. Address: Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis, 901 W New York St, Indianapolis, IN 46202, USA. Tel.: 317-274-0601; fax: 317-278-2041. E-mail address: (K. M. Naugle).

Presented in part at the 2016 American Pain Society Annual Meeting Austin, TX, USA.

Sponsorships or competing interests that may be relevant to content are disclosed at the end of this article.

Received August 01, 2016

Received in revised form October 04, 2016

Accepted November 03, 2016

© 2017 International Association for the Study of Pain
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