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Papers of the Week

Papers: 21 Jan 2023 - 3 Feb 2023

2023 Jan-Jul

Neurobiol Pain


The effects of a 15-week physical exercise intervention on pain modulation in fibromyalgia: Increased pain-related processing within the cortico-striatal- occipital networks, but no improvement of exercise-induced hypoalgesia.



Dysfunctional top-down pain modulation is a hallmark of fibromyalgia (FM) and physical exercise is a cornerstone in FM treatment. The aim of this study was to explore the effects of a 15-week intervention of strengthening exercises, twice per week, supervised by a physiotherapist, on exercise-induced hypoalgesia (EIH) and cerebral pain processing in FM patients and healthy controls (HC). FM patients (n = 59) and HC (n = 39) who completed the exercise intervention as part of a multicenter study were examined at baseline and following the intervention. Following the exercise intervention, FM patients reported a reduction of pain intensity, fibromyalgia severity and depression. Reduced EIH was seen in FM patients compared to HC at baseline and no improvement of EIH was seen following the 15-week resistance exercise intervention in either group. Furthermore, a subsample (Stockholm site: FM  = 18; HC  = 19) was also examined with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) during subjectively calibrated thumbnail pressure pain stimulations at baseline and following intervention. A significant main effect of exercise (post > pre) was observed both in FM patients and HC, in pain-related brain activation within left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and caudate, as well as increased functional connectivity between caudate and occipital lobe bordering cerebellum (driven by the FM patients). In conclusion, the results indicate that 15-week resistance exercise affect pain-related processing within the cortico-striatal-occipital networks (involved in motor control and cognition), rather than directly influencing top-down descending pain inhibition. In alignment with this, exercise-induced hypoalgesia remained unaltered.