There are lots of conditions that lead to nerve damage such as diabetes, trauma due to an injury, HIV, cancer, and more. Phantom limb syndrome is one type of neuropathy. But once one has nerve pain, it is difficult to ignore. Burning, tingling, numbness, or shooting pains may result. Neuropathic pain is increased due to inflammation. Though most sufferers do not feel like exercising, one study published in the journal Anesthesia & Analgesia, found that exercise decreased inflammation causing factors in the system, and so helped relieve nerve pain. Researchers at the China Medical University in Taiwan, led by Yu-Wen Chen, PhD conducted the study. Researchers used rats with a sciatic nerve injury as test subjects. After sustaining this injury, the rats were given a progressive exercise regime, either swimming or treadmill running. At specific intervals throughout the course of the study, researchers measured pain by observing measurable behaviors associated with it.
Cytokines are inflammation promoting substances within the body. Previous studies have shown that cytokines play a role in inflammation and neuropathic pain. But researchers found a significant drop in pain-related behaviors in rats with nerve damage due to the exercise program. Exercise led to the promotion of heat shock protein-27 which in turn reduced cytokine expression. Common treatments for neuropathic pain are antiepileptic medication and antidepressants. Though helpful, these can cause undesirable side effects. Exercise is often prescribed as part of a pain management plan. But past research has conflicted as to whether it is helpful or harmful for neuropathic pain. Though it did not eliminate pain completely, the exercise regimen reduced pain-related responses by an impressive 30-50%. The study also quantified what role inflammation plays in the development of nerve pain. These results may have doctors recommending exercise and even lower medication doses in order to reduce side effects, while still offering substantial relief. If you suffer from neuropathic pain, be sure to talk to a doctor or specialist and see what exercise regimen and other treatments are available to you.