Higher Pain Tolerance
Active women may have a higher pain tolerance than inactive peers. A new study found that women who regularly engaged in vigorous activity were less sensitive to pain than inactive women.
Researchers from the University of Wisconsin and the Middleton Memorial Veterans Hospital enlisted 21 healthy women to participate in the study. Using self-reported and accelerometer measures of physical activity, they classified women as meeting the recommended guidelines for physical activity or not. Women then underwent a procedure involving noxious thermal stimuli and reported their experiences with unpleasantness and pain.
Higher Activity, Less Pain Sensitivity
Active women experienced less pain and unpleasantness than inactive women. The more minutes a participant regularly spent performing vigorous exercise, the less pain intensity and pain unpleasantness she experienced. This significant relationship was not found for moderate activity or sedentary time.
Reducing pain sensitivity could be a major reason why exercise helps to ameliorate symptoms of migraine, fibromyalgia, and back pain.
Ellingson LD, Colbert LH, Cook DB. Physical activity is related to pain sensitivity in healthy women. Med Sci Sports Exerc 2012;4 4(7):1401-6.