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Physical activity and chronic pain in adults

Chronic pain is defined as pain lasting beyond normal tissue healing time, generally taken to be 12 weeks. It contributes to disability, anxiety, depression, sleep disturbances, poor quality of life, and healthcare costs. Chronic pain has a 20% prevalence in adults.

Chronic pain is a contributor to decreases in functional capacity, workload tolerance, depression, sleeping problems, decrease in participation of ADLs, poor quality of life and healthcare costs. The Cochrane review suggests exercises can be an intervention that could improve pain severity, physical function and quality of life.

Treatment recommendations of the past had included rest and inactivity. However, more reviews have shown more benefits associated with physical activity addressing the severity of chronic pain.

A Cochrane Review involved intervention of physical activity with vigorous aerobic and strength training. Interventions also included flexibility, range of motion, core strengthening, and balance training. This occurred 1–5 times per week, 20–60 minutes / session.

The outcomes of this study showed:

  • Improved overall physical function

  • Reduction in pain severity

  • Variable effects on psychological function


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