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Volume 42 Number 2, March/April 2005
Pages 183 — 190

Abstract - Experimentally induced pain perception is acutely reduced by aerobic exercise in people with chronic low back pain

Martin D. Hoffman, MD;1* Melissa A. Shepanski, MS;2 Sean P. MacKenzie, MD;3 Philip S. Clifford, PhD4

1Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Northern California Health Care System and the University of California, Davis Medical Center, Sacramento, CA; 2Department of Clinical Psychology, Drexel University and Division of Gastroenterology and Nutrition, The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, PA; 3Rockford Orthopedic Associates, Rockford, IL; 4Departments of Anesthesiology and Physiology, Clement J. Zablocki VA Medical Center and Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, WI
Abstract — This study examined whether subjects with chronic low back pain demonstrate exercise-induced analgesia to experimentally induced pressure pain. We employed a repeated measures design to study eight subjects with chronic low back pain (mean +/- standard deviation age = 40 +/- 10, duration of pain = 7 +/- 4 years). Pain ratings were measured immediately before and 2 minutes and 32 minutes after 25 minutes of cycle ergometry (5 minutes at 50% peak oxygen uptake, then 20 minutes at 70% peak oxygen uptake). We based the pain ratings on subject input on a visual analog scale at 10-second intervals during the 2-minute pressure pain stimulus to the nondominant index finger. Compared with preexercise values, pain ratings were significantly (p < 0.05) decreased after exercise at both 2 and 32 minutes postexercise. We conclude that pressure pain perception can be reduced for more than 30 minutes following aerobic exercise from leg cycling among people with chronic low back pain.
Key words: aerobic exercise, analgesia test, back pain, cycle ergometer, exercise analgesia, nociception test, pain, pain assessment, pain measurement, pain threshold, pain tolerance, physical activity, visual analog pain scale.

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