Natalie R. Janzen, Jamie K. Huber, Carl J. Ade, E. Laurette Taylor, and Christopher D. Black. Department of Health and Exercise Science, University of Oklahoma, Norman, OK; e-mail: natalie.r.janzen-1@ou.edu

Pain is an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage. Previous research has demonstrated a potential relationship between pain sensitivity and total daily physical activity. However, no study has examined whether the type of physical activity may also influence pain sensitivity. PURPOSE: The purpose of this study was to examine differences in thermal pain sensitivity among college-aged females who engage in different amounts and types of physically activity. METHODS: Participants (n=27) were tested on two occasions. For the first visit participants went through informed consent, completed a menstrual history questionnaire, and were then familiarized with the protocol for pain sensitivity testing. Participants then wore an accelerometer at the waist for 7 days during waking hours (excluding water activity). The second visit was timed to occur during luteal phase of their menstrual cycle. Pain sensitivity was determined by having participants provide ratings of pain intensity (PI; 0-20) and ratings of pain unpleasantness (PU; 0-20) in response to brief (15-sec) applications of temperatures ranging from 43-49° C. Based upon their self-reported and measured activity levels and activity types participants were placed into the following groups: aerobically trained (AERO), resistance trained (RES), aerobic and resistance trained (A+R), and sedentary (SED). RESULTS: Total activity differed among the groups with the AERO (203±83 min) and A+R (183±28 min) groups accumulating more physical activity compared to the RES (39±39 min; p<0.05) and SED (62±32 min; p<0.05) groups. AERO (32±13 min) and A+R (34±7 min) also accumulated greater “vigorous” intensity activity than the RES (10±4 min; p<0.05) and SED (12±5 min) groups. Mean ratings of PI across all temperatures did not differ among activity groups for (6.0±3.2, 7.4±2.9, 6.6±3.5, and 5.3±3.3 for AERO, RES, A+R, and SED, respectively; p=0.652) nor did ratings of PU across all temperatures (4.1±2.3, 4.6±2.5. 4.5±3.0, and 3.5±2.4 for AERO, RES, A+R, and SED, respectively; p=0.78). CONCLUSIONS: Unlike previous results in middle-aged and older women where higher activity was associated with lower pain sensitivity, our results suggest pain sensitivity does not differ among individuals with differing activity levels in college-aged females. Additionally, we demonstrated pain sensitivity also did not differ among differing types of physical activity.

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