Less Exercise and More Drugs: How a Low-Income Population Manages Chronic Pain

Published:March 21, 2017DOI:



      To evaluate chronic pain management in a multistate, low-income Hispanic population, and to examine predictors of exercising and prescription pain medication (PPM) use.


      Online survey administered to a representative sample of Hispanic adults in June 2015.


      Five southwestern states.


      Among all online panel members who were Hispanic (N=1007), aged 35 to 75 years from 5 states, representing 11,016,135 persons, the survey was completed by 516 members (51%). Among these, 102 participants were identified with chronic noncancer pain representing 1,140,170 persons.


      Not applicable.

      Main Outcome Measures

      Exercising or using PPM for chronic pain in past year.


      Most participants reported using PPM (58%) and exercise (54%) to manage pain. Compared with annual household incomes >$75,000, adjusted odds ratios [AORs] for exercising were .20 for <$10,000 (P=.12); .40 for $10,000 to $34,999 (P=.22); and .15 for $35,000 to $74,999 (P=.015). Conversely, AORs for PPM were over 4-fold higher for lower-income groups as follows: 14.2, 4.79, and 4.85, respectively (all P<.065). PPM users rated the importance of accessing a gym to manage pain lower (P=.01), while exercisers rated the feasibility of gym access to manage pain higher (P=.001).


      In a Hispanic population-based sample with chronic pain, lower-income groups tended to exercise less but use PPM more. Barriers to gym access and use may play a role in these disparities.


      List of abbreviations:

      AOR (adjusted odds ratio), PPM (prescription pain medication)
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