Exercise can help to lessen pain for cancer survivors, according to a new study.

Researchers found that being physically active may help lessen the intensity of pain experienced in people with a history of cancer.

Although physical activity has been shown to lessen various types of pain in the past, its effects on cancer-related pain have been unclear.

To bridge this knowledge gap the University of Melbourne researchers analysed data on 51,439 adults without a history of cancer and 10,651 adults with a past cancer diagnosis. Participants were asked to rate their pain on a scale of 0-10 and describe their usual physical activity.

The results, published in the journal CANCER, revealed that for both people with a history of cancer and without, more physical activity was linked with lower pain intensity.

The extent of the association was similar for both groups of individuals, indicating that exercise may reduce cancer-related pain just as it does for other types of pain that have been studied in the past.

The researchers referred to US guidelines which recommend 150-300 minutes a week of moderate-intensity exercise or 75-150 minutes of vigorous exercise.

Among participants with a past cancer diagnosis, those exceeding physical activity guidelines were 16 percent less likely to report moderate-to-severe pain compared to those who failed to meet physical activity guidelines.

Also, compared with people who remained inactive, those who were consistently active or became active in older adulthood reported less pain.

Senior author Dr Erika Rees-Punia of the American Cancer Society said: “It may feel counterintuitive to some but physical activity is an effective, non-pharmacologic option for reducing many types of pain. As our study suggests, this may include pain associated with cancer and its treatments.”

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