Aerobic Training Increases Pain Tolerance in Healthy Individuals

JONES, MATTHEW D.1; BOOTH, JOHN1; TAYLOR, JANET L.1,2; BARRY, BENJAMIN K.1,2

Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: August 2014 - Volume 46 - Issue 8 - p 1640–1647
doi: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000000273
Applied Sciences

The hypoalgesic effects of acute exercise are well documented. However, the effect of chronic exercise training on pain sensitivity is largely unknown.

Purpose: To examine the effect of aerobic exercise training on pain sensitivity in healthy individuals.

Methods: Pressure pain threshold, ischemic pain tolerance and pain ratings during ischemia were assessed in 24 participants before and after 6 wk of structured aerobic exercise training (n = 12) or after 6 wk of usual physical activity (n = 12). The exercise training regimen consisted of cycling three times per week for 30 min at 75% of maximal oxygen consumption reserve.

Results: Significant increases in aerobic fitness (P = 0.004) and ischemic pain tolerance (P = 0.036) were seen in the exercise group after training, whereas pressure pain threshold and pain ratings during ischemia were unchanged (P > 0.2). No change in aerobic fitness (P > 0.1) or pain sensitivity (P > 0.1) was observed in the control group.

Conclusion: Moderate- to vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise training increases ischemic pain tolerance in healthy individuals.

1School of Medical Sciences, University of New South Wales, Sydney, AUSTRALIA; and 2Neuroscience Research Australia, Sydney, AUSTRALIA

Address for correspondence: Matthew D. Jones, BExPhys, MSc, School of Medical Sciences, University of New South Wales, Kensington 2052; E-mail: matthew.jones@unsw.edu.au.

Submitted for publication July 2013.

Accepted for publication January 2014.

© 2014 American College of Sports Medicine