Original Report| Volume 13, ISSUE 2, P121-130, February 2012

Physical Activity and Function in Adolescents With Chronic Pain: A Controlled Study Using Actigraphy

  • Anna C. Wilson
    Address reprint requests to Anna C. Wilson, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Pediatrics, CDRC Division of Psychology, 3181 SW Sam Jackson Park Rd, Portland, OR 97239.
    Department of Pediatrics, Child Development and Rehabilitation Center, Oregon Health & Science University, Portland, Oregon
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  • Tonya M. Palermo
    Department of Anesthesiology & Pain Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, Washington
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Published:November 18, 2011DOI:


      Physical functioning is often impaired in adolescents with chronic pain, which has largely been demonstrated through subjective self-report measures. Actigraphy uses motion monitoring as an objective means for assessing one dimension of physical functioning; physical activity level. This study used subjective and objective measures to assess multiple dimensions of physical functioning in a clinical sample of adolescents with chronic pain (n = 78) and a comparison group of healthy adolescents (n = 59). Individual and pain characteristics were also examined as predictors of actigraphy variables within the chronic pain sample. Results indicated that adolescents with chronic pain demonstrate significant impairment in subjective measures of physical functioning and evidence lower levels of physical activity. Actigraphic measures of physical activity were moderately correlated with self-report measures of physical functioning. Individual characteristics, including adolescent age, sex, and Body Mass Index percentile, were associated with physical activity levels among adolescents with chronic pain. Physical activity represents a distinct dimension of physical functioning. Assessing physical activity may provide additional description of physical functioning among adolescents with chronic pain, and may help identify targets for intervention in this population.


      This study demonstrates that adolescents with chronic pain have lower physical activity levels, as measured objectively via actigraphy, as well as poorer subjective reports of physical functioning, compared to healthy adolescents. Actigraphic measurement of physical activity provides objective source data about one dimension of physical functioning.

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