Association of Chronic Widespread Pain With Objectively Measured Physical Activity in Adults: Findings From the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey

Published:January 24, 2014DOI:


      Chronic widespread pain (CWP) is a common and potentially debilitating disorder. Patterns of physical activity (PA) in adults with CWP have primarily been investigated using subjective, self-report measures. The current study sought to characterize PA among community-dwelling individuals with CWP, chronic regional pain, or no chronic pain using objective measurements obtained via accelerometry in the 2003 to 2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Data from 3,952 participants ages 20 and older were analyzed to assess relationships between pain status and objective measurements of PA. Prevalence of CWP was 3.3% and 5.4% in men and women, respectively. In men and women, the average activity counts per minute and time spent in moderate-to-vigorous PA were significantly lower for the CWP group than for the no chronic pain group. Interestingly, time spent in sedentary, light, and lifestyle activities was not associated with pain status. Statistical interaction tests indicated that the effects of chronic pain on counts per minute were stronger in men than in women. Despite recommendations for increased moderate-to-vigorous PA as a pain management strategy for CWP, results from this nationally representative study indicate that adults with CWP participate in less moderate-to-vigorous PA than individuals without chronic pain.


      Using objective measurement of PA in a nationally representative sample, this study demonstrates that adults with CWP participate in reduced daily and moderate-to-vigorous PA in comparison to people with no chronic pain. Findings indicate that clinicians should emphasize the importance of increasing PA in patients with CWP.

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