PainSci summary of 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 at the bottom of the page, as often as possible. ★★★★☆?4-star ratings are for bigger/better studies and reviews published in more prestigious journals, with only quibbles. Ratings are a highly subjective opinion, and subject to revision at any time. If you think this paper has been incorrectly rated, please let me know.
Exercise is great medicine for many chronic pain conditions, but there is an 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,” an article in The Clinical Journal of Pain, 2012.
- “Exercise therapy for chronic musculoskeletal pain: Innovation by altering pain memories,” an article in Manual Therapy, 2015.
- “How to explain central sensitization to patients with 'unexplained' chronic musculoskeletal pain: practice guidelines,” an article in Manual Therapy, 2011.
- “Exercise: The miracle cure and the role of the doctor in promoting it,” an article in AOMRC.org.uk, 2015.
These two articles on PainScience.com cite Nijs 2012 as a source:
- PS The Insomnia Guide — Serious insomnia-fighting advice from a veteran of the sleep wars
- PS A Rational Guide to Fibromyalgia — The science of the mysterious disease of pain, exhaustion, and mental fog
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:
- A Bayesian model-averaged meta-analysis of the power pose effect with informed and default priors: the case of felt power. Gronau 2017 Comprehensive Results in Social Psychology.
- The neck and headaches. Bogduk 2014 Neurol Clin.
- Agreement of self-reported items and clinically assessed nerve root involvement (or sciatica) in a primary care setting. Konstantinou 2012 Eur Spine J.
- Effect of NSAIDs on Recovery From Acute Skeletal Muscle Injury: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Morelli 2017 Am J Sports Med.
- Association of Spinal Manipulative Therapy With Clinical Benefit and Harm for Acute Low Back Pain: Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Paige 2017 JAMA.