An image of an old woman's grey hair.

The Link Between Pain and Your Biological Age + Tips to Get Moving Again

Do you count your grey hairs in the mirror and joke that they’re due to stress? What about spotting ‘free hearing test’ signs and wondering when it’ll be your turn? Have you ever made a joke claiming your back aching is an early sign of aging?

The bad news is: Stress can indeed make you turn grey faster, and chronic pain is linked to premature aging.

The good news: There’s something you can do about both of these! Specifically, in this article, we’ll explore the link between pain and your biological age and consider how you can make your body youthful again.


Understanding Biological Age


You might have heard the phrase ‘biological age’ floating around in conversation or online. It might seem like another one of the latest buzzwords for exploring old concepts in new ways. In reality, it’s a helpful phrase for understanding our bodies and how we treat them.

Unlike our chronological age, which is unmoveable and relates to the date and year we were born, the biological side refers to the age of our cells.

Biological aging considers not only your actual age but also the following:

  • Physical lifestyle - how active you are
  • Nutritional intake - how balanced your diet is
  • Genetics - any conditions you may have inherited from your parents
  • Illness - any conditions you may have (or had) and their lasting impact


Remarkably, your lifestyle choices can massively impact your biological age - meaning you can actually turn back the clock if you wish to.

You may have also come across two other synonymous phrases: ‘physiological aging’ and ‘functional aging.’

   

Does Chronic Pain Accelerate Biological Age?

          

The short answer is that chronic pain has indeed been linked to premature aging. One study goes as far as to claim it is “a disease of aging.”

Now for a bit of science…

In everyone’s DNA, there’s a section at the ends of chromosomes called “telomeres.” Their role is to adjust the cell’s reaction to stress and growth stimulation.

Telomere length (TL) naturally shortens with age, and the shorter these are, the more susceptible you are to sickness.

The speed at which these deteriorate (in turn, altering your biological age) can be impacted by various lifestyle factors, including stress and chronic pain.    


Pain

 

 

As we know, pain puts a lot of stress on the body, therefore causing the telomeres to work harder than usual and increasing their rate of deterioration.

In a study of 116 male participants, some with chronic pain and others without, the telomere length of those with pain was significantly shorter than that of the pain-free individuals.

This is said to occur across a range of different chronic pain experiences.


Fatigue


Sufferers of chronic pain often also experience fatigue as a secondary symptom.

Not only will constant pain cause fatigue from lacking or interrupted sleep, but there is also the physical fatigue of undertaking movements we take for granted. The level of fatigue will vary with the location and severity of pain.

A poor quality of sleep can also encourage inflammation, creating a circular effect of pain, in turn increasing physiological age.

Fatigue also affects muscle function and if you’re moving with reduced mobility, you’re more likely to sustain an injury, which will further impact your biological age.


Poor Mental Health


New research shows that those who struggle with mental health conditions like anxiety, depression, or bipolar disorder are biologically older.

Evidence of this comes from experiments that measured cholesterol as well as telomere length.

A person whose mind is under excessive mental strain is more likely to have higher cholesterol. This is because stress can lead to inflammation, which lowers the count of 'good cholesterol,’ making more room for ‘bad cholesterol.’


Fibromyalgia


Fibromyalgia syndrome (also called “FMS”) is experienced by 5% of people in the UK.

It’s a condition that manifests itself through varied symptoms, including widespread pain and stiffness in the body, tiredness, sleep problems, and mental health issues.

We’ve already covered how many of these issues can trigger increased functional age, so you can imagine the impact that experiencing multiple of these can have.

 


How Pain Psychologically Impacts How We Perceive Age


When thinking about pain, we love to exaggerate, and we get a kick out of a good story.

With every ailment, we have the choice to either tell the whole truth or an adjusted version of it. Google doesn’t help with this notion, linking every ailment to some form of serious illness, whether helpful or not.

However, a study in 2009 revealed that people who experience significant pain in their lives show limited body functionality that matches people 20-30 years older who don’t experience significant pain.

It’s unclear to what extent this limited functionality is due to gradually deteriorated body health vs. psychosomatic symptoms in response to chronic pain, though these statistics are still shocking to read.

Socially, there are various other ailments that we have come to associate with old age…

  • Backache
  • Lack of balance
  • Loss of eyesight/hearing
  • Reduced hip mobility
  • Osteoarthritis
  • General frailty

 

Easing Pain and Bringing Movement Back


The good news is: there are things you can do to help halt the acceleration of your body’s age!

The easiest and most effective thing is to undertake moderate levels of physical activity. Aside from the obvious benefits of boosting cardiovascular health and the immune system, getting active can increase telomere length too.

So, what’s the catch? In order for this to have a lasting impact, any commitment to physical activity must be for a minimum of 6 months to see positive change in TL. In studies, short-term exercise had no visible effect.

It must also be said that eating a balanced diet, quitting smoking, reducing alcohol intake, and getting ample sleep/rest can also help to slow biological aging.

Additionally, there are some early studies into the process of telomere extension and its positive results in ‘turning back the internal clock.’ Though still early in its development, this treatment process may be one to watch.

 

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One Step at a Time


Red light therapy (RLT) is great to factor into your pain treatment when attempting to slow biological aging.

Firstly, RLT is proven to delay telomere deterioration, going even further with the suggestion of telomerase reactivation (i.e., the restoration of telomere activity in the body, reducing physiological age).

Secondly, RLT is a common and effective treatment for chronic pain. By stopping and healing damaged cells in their tracks, you can tackle the issue earlier down the chain to help maintain a healthy biological age.

Struggling to know where to start with reversing your functional age and turning back time?

With our MOVE+ Pro LED & Laser, treatment is affordable, accessible, and user-friendly. It’s a great complementary at-home treatment to support a healthy, active lifestyle, but it could also be a great starting point for those finding their feet and rediscovering their youth (literally!)

For more articles on pain and biological age, read: 

About Kineon

Bringing the latest advancements in enhanced red light therapy for home use. Our mission is to get you back on your feet and moving pain-free.

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