Pain complaint-exercise performance relationship in chronic pain

W. Fordyce, R. McMahon, G. Rainwater, S. Jackins, K. Questad, T. Murphy, Barbara Jane De Lateur

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Chronic pain patients typically display reduced activity level attributed to pain and implying a positive correlation between exercise or activity and pain complaints. This study correlated observed pain complaints with amount of prescribed exercise performed by chronic pain patients when exercising to tolerance. Patients were in evaluation of earliest stages of multi-modal treatment. Exercises were physician prescribed to assess use of involved body parts and to promote general activity level. Patients were instructed to do exercise repetitions until pain, weakness of fatigue caused them to stop. Patients decided when to stop. Observations of amount of exercise performed were correlated with observed visible or audible indications of pain or suffering (pain behaviors). Results indicate a consistent negative relationship, i.e., the more exercise performed, the fewer the pain behaviors. This finding is contrary to the frequently observed physician prescription with chronic pain to limit exercise when pain increases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)311-321
Number of pages11
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1981
Externally publishedYes


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Neurology
  • Pharmacology
  • Clinical Psychology

Cite this

Fordyce, W., McMahon, R., Rainwater, G., Jackins, S., Questad, K., Murphy, T., & De Lateur, B. J. (1981). Pain complaint-exercise performance relationship in chronic pain. Pain, 10(3), 311-321.