What causes the burn in intense muscle effort?
One article on PainSci cites Pollak 2014: A Deep Dive into Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness
PainSci commentary on Pollak 2014: ?This page is one of thousands in the PainScience.com bibliography. It is not a general article: it is focused on a single scientific paper, and it may provide only just enough context for the summary to make sense. Links to other papers and more general information are provided wherever possible.
What specifically causes “the burn” in intense effort? Which molecules? Protons, lactate, and ATP — and only in concert. Individually, none of them really have that much effect. Surprisingly, this fairly unsurprising result is brand new information: “the first demonstration in humans that metabolites normally produced by exercise act in combination to activate sensory neurons that signal sensations of fatigue and muscle pain.”
~ Paul Ingraham
original abstract †Abstracts here may not perfectly match originals, for a variety of technical and practical reasons. Some abstacts are truncated for my purposes here, if they are particularly long-winded and unhelpful. I occasionally add clarifying notes. And I make some minor corrections.
NEW FINDINGS: What is the central question of this study? Can physiological concentrations of metabolite combinations evoke sensations of fatigue and pain when injected into skeletal muscle? If so, what sensations are evoked? What is the main finding and its importance? Low concentrations of protons, lactate and ATP evoked sensations related to fatigue. Higher concentrations of these metabolites evoked pain. Single metabolites evoked no sensations. This suggests that the combination of an ASIC receptor and a purinergic P2X receptor is required for signalling fatigue and pain. The results also suggest that two types of sensory neurons encode metabolites; one detects low concentrations of metabolites and signals sensations of fatigue, whereas the other detects higher levels of metabolites and signals ache and hot. The perception of fatigue is common in many disease states; however, the mechanisms of sensory muscle fatigue are not understood. In mice, rats and cats, muscle afferents signal metabolite production in skeletal muscle using a complex of ASIC, P2X and TRPV1 receptors. Endogenous muscle agonists for these receptors are combinations of protons, lactate and ATP. Here we applied physiological concentrations of these agonists to muscle interstitium in human subjects to determine whether this combination could activate sensations and, if so, to determine how the subjects described these sensations. Ten volunteers received infusions (0.2 ml over 30 s) containing protons, lactate and ATP under the fascia of a thumb muscle, abductor pollicis brevis. Infusion of individual metabolites at maximal amounts evoked no fatigue or pain. Metabolite combinations found in resting muscles (pH 7.4 + 300 nm ATP + 1 mm lactate) also evoked no sensation. The infusion of a metabolite combination found in muscle during moderate endurance exercise (pH 7.3 + 400 nm ATP + 5 mm lactate) produced significant fatigue sensations. Infusion of a metabolite combination associated with vigorous exercise (pH 7.2 + 500 nm ATP + 10 mm lactate) produced stronger sensations of fatigue and some ache. Higher levels of metabolites (as found with ischaemic exercise) caused more ache but no additional fatigue sensation. Thus, in a dose-dependent manner, intramuscular infusion of combinations of protons, lactate and ATP leads to fatigue sensation and eventually pain, probably through activation of ASIC, P2X and TRPV1 receptors. This is the first demonstration in humans that metabolites normally produced by exercise act in combination to activate sensory neurons that signal sensations of fatigue and muscle pain.
Specifically regarding Pollak 2014:
This page is part of the PainScience BIBLIOGRAPHY, which contains plain language summaries of thousands of scientific papers & others sources. It’s like a highly specialized blog. A few highlights:
- Inciting events associated with lumbar disc herniation. Suri 2010 Spine J.
- Prediction of an extruded fragment in lumbar disc patients from clinical presentations. Pople 1994 Spine (Phila Pa 1976).
- Characteristics of patients with low back and leg pain seeking treatment in primary care: baseline results from the ATLAS cohort study. Konstantinou 2015 BMC Musculoskelet Disord.
- Effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of universal school-based mindfulness training compared with normal school provision in reducing risk of mental health problems and promoting well-being in adolescence: the MYRIAD cluster randomised controlled trial. Kuyken 2022 Evid Based Ment Health.
- No long-term effects after a three-week open-label placebo treatment for chronic low back pain: a three-year follow-up of a randomized controlled trial. Kleine-Borgmann 2022 Pain.