Physical activity and function in adolescents with chronic pain: A controlled study using actigraphy

Anna C. Wilson, Tonya M. Palermo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

75 Scopus citations


Physical functioning is often impaired in adolescents with chronic pain, which has largely been demonstrated through subjective self-report measures. Actigraphy uses motion monitoring as an objective means for assessing one dimension of physical functioning; physical activity level. This study used subjective and objective measures to assess multiple dimensions of physical functioning in a clinical sample of adolescents with chronic pain (n = 78) and a comparison group of healthy adolescents (n = 59). Individual and pain characteristics were also examined as predictors of actigraphy variables within the chronic pain sample. Results indicated that adolescents with chronic pain demonstrate significant impairment in subjective measures of physical functioning and evidence lower levels of physical activity. Actigraphic measures of physical activity were moderately correlated with self-report measures of physical functioning. Individual characteristics, including adolescent age, sex, and Body Mass Index percentile, were associated with physical activity levels among adolescents with chronic pain. Physical activity represents a distinct dimension of physical functioning. Assessing physical activity may provide additional description of physical functioning among adolescents with chronic pain, and may help identify targets for intervention in this population. Perspective: This study demonstrates that adolescents with chronic pain have lower physical activity levels, as measured objectively via actigraphy, as well as poorer subjective reports of physical functioning, compared to healthy adolescents. Actigraphic measurement of physical activity provides objective source data about one dimension of physical functioning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)121-130
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Pain
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2012


  • Chronic pain
  • adolescents
  • physical activity
  • physical functioning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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