Scientists know that exercise helps the body tolerate pain. But some feel more benefits than others.
A new study reports that rats displaying the least sensitivity after running on a treadmill are also less likely to develop pain after a nerve injury.
The results, published in Journal of Pain, suggest that exercise could be a valuable component in helping doctors predict susceptibility to pain, particularly following injury or surgery, says Junad Khan, assistant professor of diagnostic sciences at Rutgers, who led the study with former faculty member Eli Eliav, now dean for oral health at University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry.
“We could use it as a form of patient profiling,” Khan says. “We hope that the finding from this study could support the development of individual pain management plans.”
The phenomenon of pain reduction after exercise is known as “exercise-induced hypoanalgesia” or (EIH). Researchers say that an individual’s capacity for EIH, or their EIH profile, can indicate how efficiently their body modulates pain, meaning how it manages both the sensation and suppression of pain.
Chronic pain conditions such as fibromyalgia, migraine, low back pain, and temporomandibular disorder have been shown to be associated with faulty pain modulation.
In the study, researchers determined each rats’ EIH profile based on their response to painful stimuli, before and after a treadmill run. Those same rats were then given a procedure that caused nerve injury. Rats with a high EIH profile meaning they felt less pain after exercise—developed less pain from the injury than rats with a low EIH profile.
Khan, who specializes in orofacial pain, is hoping that the work will provide greater insight into how pain is transmitted and perceived, in addition to the best ways to relieve it.