Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

Isometric Exercise May Benefit Patients with Chronic Pain

Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

Isometric Exercise May Benefit Patients with Chronic Pain

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON -- Low-intensity isometric exercise appears to significantly ease the perception of pain in healthy young adults, suggesting that such maneuvers could be a pain management tool for older adults with chronic pain conditions but limited mobility, according to research presented at the annual meeting of the American Pain Society.

In the study, 22 college-age adults performed isometric contractions of the left elbow flexor muscle at an intensity equal to a quarter of their maximal voluntary contraction held until task failure. Following the exercises, the duration it took for patients to first feel experimental pain, or the pain threshold, increased by 50%, compared with baseline, reported Marie Hoeger Bement, Ph.D., professor of physical therapy at Marquette University in Milwaukee.

These findings could have important implications for patients with chronic pain conditions. "Isometric contractions are very easy to prescribe and individualize," said Dr. Bement. These exercises are especially useful in patients with limited mobility or a fear of falling. "Almost anybody can do it."

To measure the participants' baseline pain threshold, a weighted blade was placed for 2 minutes on the right index finger of the 11 men and 11 women. The students held a timer in their left hands and were instructed to trigger the timer when they first felt pain. The students also were asked to rate their pain on a 0-10 point scale every 20 seconds during the 2-minute test.

Each student participated in four sessions. For the first session, students performed three maximal voluntary contractions (2 seconds in duration). The next three sessions were randomized.

Patients could be asked to perform a contraction at 25% maximal voluntary contraction to failure (8 minutes on average), at 25% maximal voluntary contraction for 2 minutes, or at 80% maximal voluntary contraction to failure (40 seconds on average). A force transducer measured the force of the contractions. Intensity was based on a percentage of the maximal contraction.

During the session of three maximal voluntary contractions, there was a statistically significant increase in pain threshold over baseline, a finding that Dr. …

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