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Bidirectional Associations Between Physical Activity and Pain Among Older Adults: An Ecological Momentary Assessment Study

Tyler J. Davis, Derek J. Hevel, Genevieve F. Dunton, and Jaclyn P. Maher

This paper examines the within-day, bidirectional associations between physical activity and self-reported pain among older adults. Older adults (N = 104; range: 60–98 years) participated in a 10-day Ecological Momentary Assessment (EMA) study. Participants received six EMA prompts/day with a single item assessing pain. Participants wore an activPAL monitor measuring step counts. At the within-person level, on occasions when participants took more steps than usual in the 30 min before the EMA prompt, they were more likely to experience pain at the prompt ( β ^ 02 = 0.0003 , p < .03). At the between-person level, greater step counts in the 30 min before the EMA prompt, on average, were associated with less pain on occasions when pain was experienced ( β ^ 01 = 0.0005 , p < .04). Pain was not related to subsequent stepping. Bidirectional associations between physical activity and pain were not documented, but physical activity did appear to be related to subsequent pain.