Format of Original
American College of Sports Medicine
Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise
Pain complaints increase with age. Exercise is frequently utilized for pain relief but the optimal exercise prescription to relieve pain is not clear. Following static contractions, young adults experience the greatest pain relief with low intensity, long duration contractions. The pain response to static contractions in older adults however is unknown.
PURPOSE : To compare pain reports in healthy older adults before and after static contractions of varying intensity and duration.
METHODS: Pain perception was assessed in 23 healthy older adults (11 men, 12 women; 72.0 ± 6.3 yrs) using a pressure pain device consisting of a 10 N force applied to the right index finger through a Lucite edge (8 x 1.5mm) for two minutes. Subjects pushed a timing device when they first felt pain (i.e., pain threshold) and rated their pain intensity every 20 seconds using a 0-10 numerical rating scale. Pain threshold and pain ratings were measured before and immediately after static contractions of the left elbow flexors at the following three doses: 1) three brief maximal voluntary contractions (MVC); 2) 25% MVC sustained for 2 minutes; and 3) 25% MVC sustained until task failure. Experimental sessions were randomized and separated by one week.
RESULTS : Time to task failure for the 25% MVC contraction was 11.8 ± 5.1 minutes. A reduction in pain was found following all three tasks with no difference between tasks (trial x task effect: p > 0.05), despite the duration of the 2 minute low-intensity contraction being ~17% of the contraction held to task failure. Pain thresholds for all doses increased 20% from 51 ± 33 to 61 ± 37 seconds and pain ratings averaged over the six time points decreased 20% from 3.3 ± 2.8 to 2.6 ± 2.5 following static contractions (trial effect: p < 0.001 and p < 0.001, respectively).
CONCLUSION : Low and high intensity static contractions of both long and short duration produce similar levels of pain reduction in older adults. These preliminary data suggest that several different types of static contractions can induce significant pain relief in older adults. Age-related changes in the pain response to static contractions must be taken into account when prescribing static exercise for the management of pain.