Have a read of why high intensity aerobic and a single isometric contraction can reduce pain!
Exercise is proved again to be the winner for pain relief!
Exercise has long been known to reduce levels of pain experienced through a number of opiodergic mechanisms. Opioidnergic means exactly how it sounds, it has an effect on a the pathways that opioid medications interact.
An interesting study in the PAIN Journal (Henrik, Bjarke, Vaegter) has looked at the effect of a number of varying modalities of exercise that cause Exercise Induced Hypoalgesia (EIH) (lowering pain). These were low and high intensity aerobic exercise in single or repeated 10 minute bouts of stationary cycling and high and low intensity (30 and 60% MVC) isometric muscle contractions (a muscle contraction held at a static joint angle) for 90 seconds in single or repeated efforts.
Both high intensity exercise and isometric contratcions produced hypoalgesia (less pain). For high intensity exercise there was no difference in the two durations of a single 10 minute bout or 2x 10 minute bouts. This is interesting as other studies have found that it takes longer durations, up to 30 minutes to gain EIH.
High and low intensity (%MVC) isometric were both found to have a hypoalgesic effect, however a greater and a more significant effect was seen with higher isometric exercise. The effect of EIH was greater locally (on or near the painful site) then remotely (other areas a distance away from the area exercised). There was no change between performing one or two, 90 second contractions of the muscle.
Women were also found to get a greater response to EIH then men and that age does not affect the outcome!
This study has some great implications for a number of conditions, here is a few…
Fibromyalgia - Pressure pain is common across multiple sites in FM suffers and therefore a short burst of 10 minute high intensity exercise has been proven to reduce these painful areas. The study used pressure pain threshold as a means of testing the tolerance to a noxious (painful) stimuli. Before, directly after and post exercise as an outcome measure. This also supports the work of multiple other studies that high intensity exercise is better then slow or low intensity exercise for Fibromyalgia pain. Ladies with FM, you also have less of an excuse then the blokes from utilizing high intensity exercise for pain relief!
It is also worth noting that EIH has an opioidnergic effect on par with opiate medications, therefore suffers prescribed opiates for pain relief can access a natural therapy (Exercise) without the long standing side effects (mood disorder, constipation and other) from exogenous opiate intake (Tramal, Oxycontin etc) and get equal therapeutic benefits for pain reduction.
Chronic pain suffers report one to multiple areas of pain, particularly area of hyperalgesia (high pain) and pressure pain. A short intense bout of exercise will assist in pain reduction a winner for patient and therapist as next time a flare up occurs, look to the stationary bike before the pill packet! Exercise also has the added benefit of improving physical and emotional function too so it’s a winner all round.
For suffers where high levels of pain inhibits effective or normal movement a therapist may utilize a single isometric contraction of 90 seconds muscle to induce a reduction in pain. This may be used in highly irritable pain with a presenting patient.