Chronic Pain and Exercise : Studies on pain intensity, biochemistry, adherence and attitudes

University dissertation from Linköping : Linköping University Electronic Press

Abstract: Chronic pain is common in western countries and entails considerable consequences for the afflicted individuals as well as for the society. Furthermore, chronic pain is complex including an advanced interplay between biological-, psychological- and social aspects. Treatment of chronic pain attempts to decrease pain intensity and increase physical-, psychological- and social functioning. However, the treatment of chronic pain is still not optimized. Different types of physical activity and exercise (PA&E) are commonly applied as non-pharmacological treatment strategies for chronic pain, but the most efficient type and dose of PA&E are unclear. In addition, adherence to prescribed PA&E is often troublesome, which further complicates the application of PA&E as treatment for chronic pain.The aim of this thesis is to increase the knowledge about PA&E as treatment for chronic pain regarding pain intensity, biochemical substances, adherence and attitudes.The findings of this thesis were that a long-term, home-based PA&E intervention comprising strength exercises as well as stretch exercises decreased pain intensity and increased function in women with chronic neck- and shoulder pain. Using microdialysis technique, differences in pain modulatory biochemical substances were found, before the intervention, in painful trapezius muscle compared to pain-free trapezius muscle. In addition, alterations in pain modulatory substances in painful trapezius muscle after the intervention were found, which possibly could imply peripheral physiological effects of PA&E. Furthermore, psychological factors could be associated to the effects of and adherence to the PA&E intervention. An intention to be physically active were expressed by patients with chronic pain, but a discordance between the intention and PA&E-behaviour were evident, even though the PA&E were experienced as valuable.In conclusion, this thesis strengthens the importance of PA&E as treatment for chronic pain. Especially, this thesis increases the knowledge about; possible peripheral pain inhibitory effects after long-term exercise; how psychological factors might affect the results of PA&E; and also about important behavioural aspects that might affect adherence to prescribed PA&E. This thesis highlights the need of more research on physiological pain inhibitory effects of long-term PA&E in chronic pain. Furthermore, improved methods for ensured adherence to prescribed PA&E are necessary in order to optimize the effect of PA&E as treatment for chronic pain.

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