Here, we established a program of low-intensity aerobic exercise and compared the effects of exercise preoperative, postoperative, and a combination of both pre- and postoperative protocols on recovery from sciatic nerve crush injury in mice using behavioral, biochemical, and morphological assays. Sciatic nerve crush was performed in adult male mice. The animals were submitted to preoperative (for 2 weeks), postoperative (for 2 weeks), and a combination of preoperative-postoperative (for 4 weeks) training protocols. During the training period, functional recovery was monitored using the Sciatic Functional Index, the Sciatic Static Index, and mechanical and cold hypersensitivity analyses. Morphological and biochemical alterations were analyzed on the 14th day post-crushing. The functional recovery values of all of the exercised groups were significantly better than the nonexercised group. Biochemically, all of the exercise groups showed a reduction in the increase of interleukin-1β (IL-1β) in the sciatic nerve and in the IL-1β and interleukin-6 receptor (IL-6R) levels in the spinal cord. However, the levels of tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α) decreased only in the postoperative group and in the combination exercise protocols. In the morphological analysis, the combination exercise subjects presented an increase in fiber and axon diameter, in the myelination degree and in the number of myelinated fibers. The present study showed that pre- and postoperative exercise achieved values for functional and morphological sciatic nerve regeneration that were significantly better than either the preoperative or postoperative protocols. This experimental study suggests that physical exercise can restore motor and nerve function to a substantial degree when performed using a prophylactic and therapeutic approach.
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