Exercise-induced hypoalgesia in women with varying levels of menstrual pain
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Exercise-induced hypoalgesia (EIH) is a well-established phenomenon in pain-free individuals that describes a decrease in pain sensitivity after an acute bout of exercise. The EIH response has been demonstrated to be sub-optimal in the presence of persisting pain. Menstrual pain is a common recurrent painful problem with many women experiencing high levels of pain each cycle. However, the EIH response has not been examined in a cohort of women with high levels of menstrual pain. This research aimed to examine whether EIH manifests differently in women with varying levels of menstrual pain. The primary hypothesis was that women with high levels of menstrual pain would demonstrate compromised EIH. Secondary aims were to explore relationships between EIH and emotional state, sleep quality, body mass index (BMI) or physical activity levels. Pressure pain thresholds (PPT) were measured in 64 participants using a digital handheld algometer before and after a submaximal isometric-handgrip exercise. EIH index was compared between low (VAS 0-3), moderate (VAS 4-7) and high (VAS 8-10) pain groups, using a linear mixed model analysis with participant as a random effect, and site, menstrual pain category and the interaction between the two, as fixed effects. EIH was consistently induced in all groups. However, there was no statistically significant difference between the pain groups for EIH index (p=0.835) or for any co-variates (p > 0.05). EIH was not found to differ between women who report regular low, moderate or high levels of menstrual pain, when measured at a point in their menstrual cycle when they are pain free. This study provides insight that EIH does not vary in women with differing levels of menstrual pain when they are not currently experiencing pain. The current findings indicate that, although menstrual pain can involve regular episodes of high pain levels, it may not be associated with the same central nervous system dysfunctions as seen in sustained chronic pain conditions.
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