Three articles on PainSci cite Nijs 2012: 1. The Insomnia Guide for Chronic Pain Patients 2. A Deep Dive into Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness 3. A Rational Guide to Fibromyalgia
PainSci commentary on Nijs 2012: ?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.
Exercise is great medicine for many chronic pain conditions, but there is an important “but”: it’s unclear if it’s a bandaid or if it actually “has positive effects on the processes involved in chronic pain (e.g. central pain modulation).” This narrative review concludes that it’s complicated and it depends, and some patients definitely have a “dysfunctional response” to exercise, and thus “exercise therapy should be individually tailored with emphasis on prevention of symptom flares.”
~ 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.
BACKGROUND: Exercise is an effective treatment for various chronic pain disorders, including fibromyalgia, chronic neck pain, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and chronic low back pain. Although the clinical benefits of exercise therapy in these populations are well established (i.e. evidence based), it is currently unclear whether exercise has positive effects on the processes involved in chronic pain (e.g. central pain modulation).
OBJECTIVES: Reviewing the available evidence addressing the effects of exercise on central pain modulation in patients with chronic pain.
METHODS: Narrative review.
RESULTS: Exercise activates endogenous analgesia in healthy individuals. The increased pain threshold following exercise is due to the release of endogenous opioids and activation of (supra)spinal nociceptive inhibitory mechanisms orchestrated by the brain. Exercise triggers the release of beta-endorphins from the pituitary (peripherally) and the hypothalamus (centrally), which in turn enables analgesic effects by activating μ-opioid receptors peripherally and centrally, respectively. The hypothalamus, through its projections on the periaqueductal grey, has the capacity to activate descending nociceptive inhibitory mechanisms. However, several groups have shown dysfunctioning of endogenous analgesia in response to exercise in patients with chronic pain. Muscle contractions activate generalized endogenous analgesia in healthy, pain-free humans and patients with either osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis, but result in increased generalised pain sensitivity in fibromyalgia patients. In patients having local muscular pain (e.g. shoulder myalgia), exercising non-painful muscles activates generalized endogenous analgesia. However, exercising painful muscles does not change pain sensitivity either in the exercising muscle or at distant locations.
LIMITATIONS: The reviewed studies examined acute effects of exercise rather than long-term effects of exercise therapy.
CONCLUSIONS: A dysfunctional response of patients with chronic pain and aberrations in central pain modulation to exercise has been shown, indicating that exercise therapy should be individually tailored with emphasis on prevention of symptom flares. The paper discusses the translation of these findings to rehabilitation practice together with future research avenues.
- “Nociception affects motor output: a review on sensory-motor interaction with focus on clinical implications,” Nijs et al, The Clinical Journal of Pain, 2012.
- “Exercise therapy for chronic musculoskeletal pain: Innovation by altering pain memories,” Nijs et al, Manual Therapy, 2015.
- “How to explain central sensitization to patients with 'unexplained' chronic musculoskeletal pain: practice guidelines,” Nijs et al, Manual Therapy, 2011.
- “Exercise: The miracle cure and the role of the doctor in promoting it,” Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, AOMRC.org.uk, 2015.
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:
- Cannabidiol (CBD) products for pain: ineffective, expensive, and with potential harms. Moore 2023 J Pain.
- 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.