Survey suggests cancer survivors can relieve pain by exercising

The ongoing pain that lingers after treatment is the bane of millions of cancer survivors around the world. Researchers now believe exercise, counterintuitive as it may seem, is the key to reducing pain. Christin Klose/dpa
The ongoing pain that lingers after treatment is the bane of millions of cancer survivors around the world. Researchers now believe exercise, counterintuitive as it may seem, is the key to reducing pain. Christin Klose/dpa

While escaping cancer is usually a huge relief, it can at the same time leave the patient with "ongoing pain," according to the American Cancer Society.

But that pain can be reduced if a survivor remains physically active or returns to being so, the researchers found, after investigating information covering over 60,000 adults, around 10,000 of whom had a cancer diagnosis.

The participants were asked to evaluate any pain they felt, on a 0-10 scale, and were then asked about how physically active they were.

The investigators, who included Erika Rees-Punia of the American Cancer Society and Christopher Swain of the University of Melbourne, found that "more physical activity was linked with lower pain intensity," both for people with and without a history of cancer.

"It may feel counterintuitive to some, but physical activity is an effective, non-pharmacologic option for reducing many types of pain," said Rees-Punia.

The pain-relieving or analgesic impact of being active had been "more established" among those without a history of cancer, the team said, adding that they set out to examine the relationship among former cancer patients.

"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," the team found.