Journal of Rehabilitation Research & Development (JRRD)

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Volume 53 Number 1, 2016
   Pages 95 — 106

Abstract — Potential neurobiological benefits of exercise in chronic pain and posttraumatic stress disorder: Pilot study

Erica Scioli-Salter, PhD;1–3* Daniel E. Forman, MD;4–5 John D. Otis, PhD;2–3,6 Carlos Tun, MD;7 Kelly Allsup, BS;2,4 Christine E. Marx, MD;8 Richard L. Hauger, MD;9 Jillian C. Shipherd, PhD;1–3 Diana M. Higgins, PhD;2–3 Anna Tyzik, BS;1 Ann M. Rasmusson, MD1,3

1Women's Health Sciences Division, National Center for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, and 2Research Service, Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Boston Healthcare System, Boston, MA; 3Department of Psychiatry, Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, MA; 4Geriatrics, Research, Education and Clinical Center, VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System, Pittsburgh, PA; 5Division of Cardiovascular Medicine, VA Boston Healthcare System, Boston, MA; and Division of Cardiovascular Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA; 6Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, Boston University, Boston, MA; 7Division of Rehabilitative Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA; and Division of Rehabilitative Medicine, VA Boston Healthcare System, Boston, MA; 8Duke University School of Medicine, Durham VA Medical Center, Durham, NC; and VA Mid-Atlantic Mental Illness Research, Education and Clinical Center, Durham, NC; 9Center of Excellence for Stress and Mental Health, VA San Diego Healthcare System, San Diego, CA; and Department of Psychiatry, School of Medicine, University of California San Diego, La Jolla, CA

Abstract — This pilot study assessed the effects of cardiopulmonary exercise testing and cardiorespiratory fitness on plasma neuropeptide Y (NPY), allopregnanolone and pregnanolone (ALLO), cortisol, and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), and their association with pain sensitivity. Medication-free trauma-exposed participants were either healthy (n = 7) or experiencing comorbid chronic pain/posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) (n = 5). Peak oxygen consumption (VO2) during exercise testing was used to characterize cardiorespiratory fitness. Peak VO2 correlated with baseline and peak NPY levels (r = 0.66, p < 0.05 and r = 0.69, p < 0.05, respectively), as well as exercise-induced changes in ALLO (r = 0.89, p < 0.001) and peak ALLO levels (r = 0.71, p < 0.01). NPY levels at the peak of exercise correlated with pain threshold 30 min after exercise (r = 0.65, p < 0.05), while exercise-induced increases in ALLO correlated with pain tolerance 30 min after exercise (r = 0.64, p < 0.05). In contrast, exercise-induced changes in cortisol and DHEA levels were inversely correlated with pain tolerance after exercise (r = –0.69, p < 0.05 and r = –0.58, p < 0.05, respectively). These data suggest that cardiorespiratory fitness is associated with higher plasma NPY levels and increased ALLO responses to exercise, which in turn relate to pain sensitivity. Future work will examine whether progressive exercise training increases cardiorespiratory fitness in association with increases in NPY and ALLO and reductions in pain sensitivity in chronic pain patients with PTSD.

Key words:ALLO, biomarkers, cardiorespiratory fitness, chronic pain, exercise, neurosteroids, NPY, pain sensitivity, PTSD, VO2.

View HTML ¦ View PDF ¦ Contents Vol. 53, No.1

This article and any supplementary material should be cited as follows:
Scioli-Salter E, Forman DE, Otis JD, Tun C, Allsup K, Marx CE, Hauger RL, Shipherd JC, Higgins DM, Tyzik A, Rasmusson AM. Potential neurobiological benefits of exercise in chronic pain and posttraumatic stress disorder: Pilot study. J Rehabil Res Dev. 2016;53(1):95–106.
ORCID: Diana M. Higgins, PhD; 0000-0002-6885-266X

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