Abstract Background and aims
Reduced pain sensitivity following exercise is termed exercise induced hypoalgesia (EIH). Preliminary evidence suggests that impairment of EIH is evident in individuals with whiplash associated disorders (WAD) following submaximal aerobic exercise. This study aimed to compare EIH responses to isometric and aerobic exercise in patients with chronic WAD and healthy controls and investigate relationships between EIH, conditioned pain modulation (CPM) and psychological factors in patients with chronic WAD.
A cross sectional pre-post study investigated the effect of a single session of submaximal aerobic cycling exercise and a single session of isometric timed wall squat exercise on EIH in a group of participants with chronic WAD (
n= 21) and a group of asymptomatic control participants ( n= 19). Bivariate analyses between EIH and baseline measures of CPM and psychological features (fear of movement, pain catastrophization and posttraumatic stress symptoms) were also investigated. Results
The isometric wall squat exercise but not the aerobic cycling exercise resulted in EIH in both groups (
P< .023) with no between-group differences ( P> .55) demonstrated for either exercise. There were no significant associations measured between EIH (for either exercise performed), and CPM, or any of the psychological variables. Conclusions
This study showed that individuals with chronic WAD and mild to moderate pain and disability, and no evidence of dysfunctional CPM, demonstrated reduced pain sensitivity, both in the cervical spine and over the tibialis anterior following an isometric, timed wall squat exercise. Cycling exercise did not increase pain sensitivity.
Individuals with chronic WAD and mild to moderate levels of neck pain and disability may experience less pain sensitivity both locally and remotely following an exercise program directed at nonpainful muscles performing isometric exercises. Individuals cycling for 30 min at 75% of age-predicted heart rate maximum do not experience increased pain sensitivity.