Exercise-mediated improvements in painful neuropathy associated with prediabetes in mice

Pain. 2013 Dec;154(12):2658-67. doi: 10.1016/j.pain.2013.07.052. Epub 2013 Aug 6.


Recent research suggests that exercise can be effective in reducing pain in animals and humans with neuropathic pain. To investigate mechanisms in which exercise may improve hyperalgesia associated with prediabetes, C57Bl/6 mice were fed either standard chow or a high-fat diet for 12 weeks and were provided access to running wheels (exercised) or without access (sedentary). The high-fat diet induced a number of prediabetic symptoms, including increased weight, blood glucose, and insulin levels. Exercise reduced but did not restore these metabolic abnormalities to normal levels. In addition, mice fed a high-fat diet developed significant cutaneous and visceral hyperalgesia, similar to mice that develop neuropathy associated with diabetes. Finally, a high-fat diet significantly modulated neurotrophin protein expression in peripheral tissues and altered the composition of epidermal innervation. Over time, mice that exercised normalized with regards to their behavioral hypersensitivity, neurotrophin levels, and epidermal innervation. These results confirm that elevated hypersensitivity and associated neuropathic changes can be induced by a high-fat diet and exercise may alleviate these neuropathic symptoms. These findings suggest that exercise intervention could significantly improve aspects of neuropathy and pain associated with obesity and diabetes. Additionally, this work could potentially help clinicians determine those patients who will develop painful versus insensate neuropathy using intraepidermal nerve fiber quantification.

Keywords: Diabetic neuropathy; Exercise; Nerve growth factor; Neurotrophins; Nociception; Prediabetes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Diabetic Neuropathies / physiopathology
  • Diabetic Neuropathies / therapy
  • Diet, High-Fat / adverse effects*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Pain / physiopathology
  • Pain Measurement / methods*
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / physiopathology
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / therapy*
  • Physical Conditioning, Animal / methods
  • Physical Conditioning, Animal / physiology*
  • Prediabetic State / physiopathology
  • Prediabetic State / therapy*

Supplementary concepts

  • Neuropathy, Painful