News Release

Does physical activity lessen pain intensity for cancer survivors?

Study shows that higher levels of physical activity are linked with less pain, and to a similar extent in adults with and without a history of cancer

Peer-Reviewed Publication

Wiley

People who have had cancer often experience ongoing pain, but a new study reveals that being physically active may help lessen its intensity. The study is published by Wiley online in CANCER, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society.

Although physical activity has been shown to lessen various types of pain, its effects on cancer-related pain are unclear. To investigate, a team led by senior author Erika Rees-Punia, PhD, MPH, of the American Cancer Society, and first author Christopher T.V. Swain, PhD, of the University of Melbourne, in Australia, analyzed information pertaining to 51,439 adults without a history of cancer and 10,651 adults with a past cancer diagnosis. Participants were asked, “How would you rate your pain on average,” with responses ranging from 0 (no pain) to 10 (worst pain imaginable). Participants were also asked about their usual physical activity.

U.S. guidelines recommend 150 minutes (2 hours 30 minutes) to 300 minutes (5 hours) a week of moderate-intensity, or 75 minutes (1 hour 15 minutes) to 150 minutes (2 hours 30 minutes) a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity.

Based on participants’ responses, the investigators found that, for individuals who had cancer in the past as well as for those without a history of cancer, more physical activity was linked with lower pain intensity. The extent of the association was similar for both groups of individuals, indicating that exercise may reduce cancer-related pain just as it does for other types of pain that have been studied in the past.

Among participants with a past cancer diagnosis, those exceeding physical activity guidelines were 16% less likely to report moderate-to-severe pain compared to those who failed to meet physical activity guidelines. Also, compared with people who remained inactive, those who were consistently active or became active in older adulthood reported less pain.

“It may feel counterintuitive to some, but physical activity is an effective, non-pharmacologic option for reducing many types of pain. As our study suggests, this may include pain associated with cancer and its treatments,” said Dr. Rees-Punia. 

 

Additional information
NOTE: The information contained in this release is protected by copyright. Please include journal attribution in all coverage. A free abstract of this article will be available via the CANCER Newsroom upon online publication. For more information or to obtain a PDF of any study, please contact: Sara Henning-Stout, newsroom@wiley.com

Full Citation:
“Physical activity and pain in people with and without cancer.” Christopher T.V. Swain, Matthew Masters, Brigid M. Lynch, Alpa V. Patel, and Erika Rees-Punia. CANCER; Published Online: February 12, 2024 (DOI: 10.1002/cncr.35208). 

URL Upon Publication: http://doi.wiley.com/10.1002/cncr.35208

Author Contact: Danielle Galvin, Media and Communications Adviser, University of Melbourne at danielle.galvin@unimelb.edu.au; and Anne Reynolds-Doerr, Director of Medical & Scientific Communications at the American Cancer Society, at anne.doerr@cancer.org

About the Journal
CANCER is a peer-reviewed publication of the American Cancer Society integrating scientific information from worldwide sources for all oncologic specialties. The objective of CANCER is to provide an interdisciplinary forum for the exchange of information among oncologic disciplines concerned with the etiology, course, and treatment of human cancer. CANCER is published on behalf of the American Cancer Society by Wiley and can be accessed online. Follow CANCER on Twitter @JournalCancer and Instagram @ACSJournalCancer, and stay up to date with the American Cancer Society Journals on LinkedIn.

About Wiley
Wiley is a knowledge company and a global leader in research, publishing, and knowledge solutions. Dedicated to the creation and application of knowledge, Wiley serves the world’s researchers, learners, innovators, and leaders, helping them achieve their goals and solve the world's most important challenges. For more than two centuries, Wiley has been delivering on its timeless mission to unlock human potential. Visit us at Wiley.com. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram.


Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert system.