HOW CAN STRENGTH TRAINING PROTECT AGAINST MUSCLE PAIN?
A basic science study published in PAIN®, the official journal of the International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP), shows that strength or resistance training prevents the development of muscle pain in mice. The activation of androgen receptors causes this protection.
The research supports the muscle discomfort relieving or preventive effects of the male hormone testosterone and androgen receptors in response to resistance training. The study demonstrated gender variations in the impact of strength training on muscle discomfort. In addition, the team discovered that this type of exercise has its effect through testosterone activating androgen receptors.
While strength or resistance training prevents the development of long-term (chronic) muscle pain in female and male mice, it did not reduce any existing muscle discomfort in female mice. Nevertheless, the researchers conclude that these findings give strength training a solid scientific foundation in treating those with chronic musculoskeletal pain.
The Positive Effects Of Exercise On Muscle Pain Are Mediated By Testosterone
In the US, chronic pain is a widespread and expensive issue. As a result, patients are frequently advised to engage in exercise, including resistance training, to help prevent and manage chronic pain, including osteoarthritis, low back pain, and fibromyalgia.
But while the biochemical processes underlying aerobic exercise's health advantages and the analgesic effects of exercise have received extensive research, nothing is known about how resistance training affects muscle pain and soreness. The same research team's earlier investigations revealed that testosterone guards against the emergence of hyperalgesia or increased pain.
In the new study, the research team created a new mouse model to evaluate the impact of strength training on muscle pain.
Physical therapy practitioners frequently employ strength training as a pain management strategy. The researchers made the mice climb a ladder while having light weights delicately fastened to their tails.
They demonstrated that this exercise improved the mice's front paws' grip strength, indicating that it was an efficient method of strength training. A mild acid solution was injected into some groups of mice to cause activity-induced muscular soreness. The objective was to assess the impact of resistance exercise, including androgen receptors and testosterone levels, on the development of musculoskeletal discomfort.
Both female and male mice were protected from the development of muscle pain when they underwent this strength training routine for eight weeks before the beginning of muscle pain. Strength training only reduced discomfort in the male mice when muscle pain had already developed. Male mice who exercised saw short-term increases in testosterone, but not female mice.
According to research, resistance training prevents the development of chronic pain in both male and female mice via activating androgen receptors and testosterone. This justifies men and women using resistance training and other forms of exercise to decrease and treat musculoskeletal discomfort. It also implies that future research can concentrate on androgen receptors to create new remedies for musculoskeletal pain.
The researchers conducted further tests using an androgen receptor-blocking medication to establish the effects of testosterone on muscle soreness. Animals given androgen blockers during resistance training did not develop a protective response against muscle discomfort. Furthermore, once it started, the androgen blocker did not affect the exercise-induced protective effect.
According to the researchers, these findings imply that strength training program-induced muscular pain protection against activity-induced pain requires the activation of androgen receptors. The results from their animal model may be able to shed light on how exercise might be used to treat chronic pain.
Researchers argue that aerobic and resistance training-based exercise provide analgesia, and doctors may want to consider patient preferences when prescribing exercise modes. In addition, strength training may have therapeutic effects without being restricted to treating aching muscles because the analgesic impact seems systemic.
Additionally, the findings imply that resistance training will be more successful at preventing muscular discomfort than treating it. The researchers concluded their study with the recommendation to continue exercising in the absence of symptoms to prevent future development of musculoskeletal pain.
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- Lesnak, Joseph B et al. “Resistance training protects against muscle pain through activation of androgen receptors in male and female mice.” Pain vol. 163,10 (2022): 1879-1891. doi:10.1097/j.pain.0000000000002638
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