Associations between pain and physical activity among older adults

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Objectives: Chronic pain is a significant societal problem and pain complaints are one of the main causes of work absenteeism and emergency room visits. Physical activity has been associated with reduced risk of suffering from musculoskeletal pain complaints, but the exact relationship in an older adult sample is not known.

Methods: Participants self-reported their physical activity level and whether they were often troubled by bone, joint, or muscle pain. Logistic regression analyses revealed the nature of the relationship between musculoskeletal pain and physical activity cross-sectionally and longitudinally over the course of 10 years. Data were taken from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing, comprising of 5802 individuals residing in England aged 50 or older.

Results: Only high levels of physical activity were associated with a reduced risk of suffering from musculoskeletal pain compared to a sedentary lifestyle longitudinally. In addition, having low wealth, being female, and being overweight or obese were found to be risk factors for suffering from musculoskeletal pain.

Conclusions: The development of interventions aimed at alleviating and preventing musculoskeletal pain complaints might benefit from incorporating physical activity programs, weight loss, and aspects addressing wealth inequality to maximise their efficacy.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0263356
Number of pages12
JournalPLoS One
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 28 Jan 2022


  • UKRI
  • ESRC


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