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Exercise Can Be a Painkiller for Cancer Patients
  • Posted February 12, 2024

Exercise Can Be a Painkiller for Cancer Patients

Being active may help ease ongoing cancer pain.

That's the key takeaway from a study of more 10,600 people with a history of cancer and over 51,000 without the disease.

A team led by Erika Rees-Punia of the American Cancer Society and Christopher Swain of the University of Melbourne in Australia asked participants about their usual physical activity and their pain levels.

Among both groups of participants, more physical activity was tied to less intense pain. 

The extent of the link between activity and pain was similar among both groups, which researchers said indicates that exercise may reduce cancer-related pain the same way it does for other types of pain.

U.S. guidelines recommend between 2.5 and 5 hours a week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, or between 1.25 and 2.5 hours of vigorous activity.

Among participants who had had cancer, those exceeding the guidelines were 16% less likely to report moderate-to-severe pain compared to those who didn't meet guidelines, the study found. 

Researchers also found that participants who were consistently active or who became active in older adulthood reported less pain than folks who stayed inactive.

The findings were published Feb. 12 in the journal Cancer.

"It may feel counterintuitive to some, but physical activity is an effective, non-pharmacologic option for reducing many types of pain," Rees-Punia said in a journal news release. "As our study suggests, this may include pain associated with cancer and its treatment."

More information

The American Cancer Society has more about dealing with cancer pain.

SOURCE: WILEY, news release, Feb. 12, 2024

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