Chronic Pain and Premature Aging – The Moderating Role of Physical Exercise

Yael Lahav, David Levy, Avi Ohry, Gabi Zeilig, Meir Lahav, Hava Golander, Anat Chacham Guber, Orit Uziel, Ruti Defrin*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Chronic pain induces a multitude of harmful effects; recently it has been suggested that chronic pain is also associated with premature aging, manifested in shortened telomere length (TL). However, evidence for this hypothesis is scarce and inconsistent. The aim was twofold: 1) Investigate whether chronic pain is associated with premature aging, and 2) Determine whether physical exercise (PE) moderates this association if it exists. Participants were 116 male subjects, with (n = 67) and without chronic pain (n = 49). Blood samples for TL analysis were collected and participants were interviewed and completed questionnaires. As a part of the cohort, we included people with physical disability; this variable was controlled in the analysis. The TL of individuals with chronic pain was significantly shorter than that of pain-free individuals. Regression analysis revealed a significant moderating effect of PE on chronic pain and TL, above and beyond the effects of disability, age, and weight. Whereas chronic pain was associated with shorter telomeres in participants who did not exercise, this association was nonsignificant among participants who did exercise. The results suggest that chronic pain is associated with premature ageing; however, PE may mitigate this association and may protect individuals against the harmful effects of chronic pain. Perspective: The study suggests that it is important to monitor signs of premature ageing among chronic pain patients as they are at risk. However, chronic pain patients may benefit from regular PE in this respect as it may moderate premature ageing.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)209-218
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Pain
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2021


  • Chronic pain
  • physical exercise
  • premature ageing
  • telomere length


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