An examination of diurnal variations in neuropathic pain and affect, on exercise and non-exercise days, in adults with spinal cord injury

Spinal Cord Ser Cases. 2018 Oct 27:4:94. doi: 10.1038/s41394-018-0130-3. eCollection 2018.


Study design: Case series.

Objectives: The temporal relationships between exercise, neuropathic pain and affect are not well understood. The purpose of this study was to utilize ecological momentary assessment to measure intra-individual diurnal variations in neuropathic pain and affect on exercise and non-exercise days. This study aimed to provide a deeper understanding of how neuropathic pain and affect change from pre- to post-exercise, and over time.

Setting: Community.

Methods: Six physically active men with SCI participated in a 6-day protocol (M age = 39.33 ± 8.24; 83.3% tetraplegics; years post injury = 6-17 years). Using their Smartphones, participants completed the Feeling Scale, Felt Arousal Scale, and Neuropathic Pain Scale in response to six daily prompts, and before and after exercise. Paired samples t-tests were conducted on changes in neuropathic pain and affect from pre to post-exercise. Bivariate Pearson's correlational analyses were computed between time of day, neuropathic pain and affect.

Results: Participants experienced a significant decrease in neuropathic pain (t(5) = 3.93; p = 0.01) following completion of at least one bout of exercise. A large, but non-significant increase (Hgav = 0.76) in Feeling Scale scores occurred following one bout of exercise. Time of day, neuropathic pain and affect were significantly correlated for two participants.

Conclusions: Overall, results suggest exercise can reduce neuropathic pain, and may also increase feelings of pleasure. Given the inconsistent pattern of results across participants, further research is needed to look at both individual characteristics, and characteristics of exercise that may moderate changes in neuropathic pain and affect for adults with SCI.