Pain Experiments May Not Apply to Exercise

Pain is one area of medicine that continues to provoke questions, and a recent study suggests that exercise-induced pain is in a category of its own.

Pain is one area of medicine that continues to provoke questions, and a recent study suggests that exercise-induced pain is in a category of its own.

Thermal, pressure, or electrical stimuli are conventional methods for studying pain. However, they may not be suitable approaches when assessing the association between pain and exercise. Lex Mauger, BSc, PhD, and Ali Astokorki, PhD student, from the University of Kent in England investigated the relationship in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports.

A total of 32 recreationally active adults (23 males, 9 females) were included in the study. The participants underwent the cold pressor test (CPT) for pain tolerance, pain pressure threshold (PPT) measure, and exercise-induced pain (EIP) tolerance. These experiments were conducted during a 16.1km cycling time trial.

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There was no correlation between CPT or PPT and the cycling trial, but there was “a significant correlation” between EIP tolerance and the exercise. An additional finding that emerged from the research indicated that people who were ready to endure more pain performed exercise activities better.

“The researchers’ findings prove their hypothesis that experimental measures of pain are poor predictors of time trail performance, whereas EIP is a good predictor,” a news release said.

More studies evaluating pain and performance during exercise are needed and they should concentrate on tolerance levels of EIP. The authors say that pain pathways are very different and different stimuli induces specific responses.

“EIP is most likely felt due to a build-up of tissue damaging biochemical combined with an increase in muscular pressure, whilst the traditional experimental measures of pain induce very different bodily responses,” the statement continued.

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