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Exercising and Swimming Can Reduce Nerve Pain

Update Date: Jun 02, 2012 11:58 AM EDT

Hitting the treadmill at your gym, or going for a swim can do more than just help you lose pounds. A recent study has revealed that exercising can help reduce neuropathic pain or pain related to nerve damage.

Researchers say that exercise relieves pain by reducing levels of certain inflammation-promoting substances called cytokines.

According to the report, with exercise, the pain responses to temperature and pressure could be reduced up to 50 percent in rats, along with a reduction in expression of inflammation-promoting cytokines in sciatic nerve tissue.

Normally, neuropathic pain, the pain caused due to damaged, dysfunctional, or injured nerve fibers cannot be controlled by conventional pain medications. So far, some antidepressants and antiepileptic medications were reported to be helpful, but they also have significant side effects.

The study, led by researcher Yu-Wen Chen of China Medical University in Taichung, Taiwan and his colleagues, was conducted on male rats with sciatic nerve injury. The study found that swimming and treadmill running reduced pain responses to temperature and pressure by 30 percent to 50 percent in rats.

The findings, published in Anesthesia & Analgesia, confirmed previous findings that inflammation and pro-inflammatory cytokines play a role in the development of neuropathic pain in response to nerve injury. They also found that exercise increased expression of a heat shock protein-27, which may have contributed to the decreases in cytokine expression.

Although patients with chronic pain are often recommended to exercise, the same for people with neuropathic pain is still conflicted.

Chen further said that while physical activity might not completely help someone get rid of neuropathic pain, the study supports the benefits of it in reducing chronic pain associated with nerve damage. Exercising is used as a non-drug therapy for treating neuropathic pain, he said, according to the report.

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