Exercise-induced hypoalgesia is present in people with Parkinson’s disease: two observational cross-sectional studies

Vanessa Nguy, Benjamin K. Barry, Niamh Moloney, Leanne M. Hassett, Colleen G. Canning, Simon J.G. Lewis, Natalie E. Allen*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    11 Citations (Scopus)


    Background: Exercise is prescribed for people with Parkinson’s disease to address motor and non-motor impairments, including pain. Exercise-induced hypoalgesia (i.e., an immediate reduction in pain sensitivity following exercise) is reported in the general population; however, the immediate response of pain sensitivity to exercise in people with Parkinson’s disease is unknown. The purpose of this study was to investigate if exercise-induced hypoalgesia is present following isometric and aerobic exercise in people with Parkinson’s disease, and if so, if it varies with the dose of aerobic exercise. Methods: Thirty people with idiopathic Parkinson’s disease and pain-free age-matched controls completed two observational studies evaluating the response to: (a) right arm isometric exercise; and (b) treadmill walking at low and moderate intensities. Pressure pain thresholds were measured over biceps brachii and quadriceps muscles immediately before and after exercise, with increased thresholds after exercise indicating exercise-induced hypoalgesia. Results: Pressure pain thresholds increased in the Parkinson’s disease group at all tested sites following all exercise bouts (e.g., isometric exercise, right bicep 29%; aerobic exercise, quadriceps, moderate intensity 8.9%, low intensity 7.1% (p ≤ 0.008)), with no effect of aerobic exercise dose (p = 0.159). Similar results were found in the control group. Conclusions: Overall, people with Parkinson’s disease experienced an exercise-induced hypoalgesia response similar to that of the control group, the extent of which did not vary between mild and moderate doses of aerobic exercise. Further research is warranted to investigate potential longer term benefits from exercise in the management of pain in this population. Significance: Isometric and aerobic exercise reduces pain sensitivity in people with Parkinson’s disease. As exercise is important for people with Parkinson’s disease, these results provide assurance that people with Parkinson’s disease and pain can exercise without an immediate increase in pain sensitivity. The reduction in pain sensitivity with both modes and with low and moderate intensities of aerobic exercise suggests that people with Parkinson’s disease can safely choose the mode and intensity of exercise that best suits their needs.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1329-1339
    Number of pages11
    JournalEuropean Journal of Pain (United Kingdom)
    Issue number7
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2019


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