Exercise helps to alleviate pain related to nerve damage(neuropathic pain) by reducing levels of certaininflammation-promoting factors, suggests an experimental study inthe June issue of Anesthesia & Analgesia , official journal of the International Anesthesia Research Society(IARS). The results support exercise as a potentially useful nondrugtreatment for neuropathic pain, and suggest that it may work byreducing inflammation-promoting substances called cytokines. Thelead author was Yu-Wen Chen, PhD, of China Medical University,Taichung, Taiwan. Exercise Reduces Nerve Pain and Cytokine Expression in Rats Neuropathic pain is a common and difficult-to-treat type of paincaused by nerve damage, seen in patients with trauma, diabetes , and other conditions. Phantom limb pain after amputation is anexample of neuropathic pain. |
Dr Chen and colleagues examined the effects of exercise onneuropathic pain induced by sciatic nerve injury in rats. Afternerve injury, some animals performed progressive exercise - eitherswimming or treadmill running - over a few weeks. The researchersassessed the effects of exercise on neuropathic pain severity bymonitoring observable pain behaviors. The results suggested significant reductions in neuropathic pain inrats assigned to swimming or treadmill running.
Exercise reducedabnormal responses to temperature and pressure - bothcharacteristic of neuropathic pain. Exercise also led to reduced expression of inflammation-promotingcytokines in sciatic nerve tissue - specifically, tumor necrosisfactor-alpha and interleukin-1-beta. That was consistent withprevious studies suggesting that inflammation and pro-inflammatorycytokines play a role in the development of neuropathic pain inresponse to nerve injury. Exercise also led to increased expression of a protein, called heatshock protein-27, which may have contributed to the reductions incytokine expression. Neuropathic pain causes burning pain and numbness that is notcontrolled by conventional pain medications.
Antidepressant andantiepileptic drugs may be helpful, but have significant sideeffects. Exercise is commonly recommended for patients with varioustypes of chronic pain, but there are conflicting data as to whetherit is helpful in neuropathic pain. The new results support the benefits of exercise in reducingneuropathic pain, though not eliminating it completely. In theexperiments, exercise reduced abnormal pain responses by 30 to 50percent. The study also adds new evidence that inflammation contributes tothe development of neuropathic pain, including the possible rolesof pro-inflammatory cytokines.
The results provide support forexercise as a helpful, nondrug therapy for neuropathic pain -potentially reducing the need for medications and resulting sideeffects. Additional References Citations.
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