Intensive Locomotor Training Provides Sustained Alleviation of Chronic Spinal Cord Injury-Associated Neuropathic Pain: A Two-Year Pre-Clinical Study

Elizabeth A. Dugan, Benjamin Schachner, Stanislava Jergova, Jacqueline Sagen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Neuropathic pain often accompanies the functional deficits associated with spinal cord injury (SCI) and further reduces a patient's quality of life. Clinical and pre-clinical research is beginning to highlight the beneficial role that rehabilitative therapies such as locomotor training can have not only on functional recovery but also on chronic pain management. Our group has previously developed an intensive locomotor training (ILT) treadmill protocol on rats that reduced SCI neuropathic pain symptoms for at least 3 months. We have extended these findings in the current study to evaluate the ability of regular ILT regimen over a 2 year period post-SCI to maintain neuropathic pain reduction. To assess this, the rat clip compression SCI model (T7/8) was used and treadmill training was initiated starting 4 weeks after SCI and continuing through the duration of the study. Results showed continued suppression of SCI neuropathic pain responses (reduced mechanical, heat, and cold hypersensitivity throughout the entire time course of the study). In contrast, non-exercised rats showed consistent and sustained neuropathic pain responses during this period. In addition, prolonged survival and improved locomotor outcomes were observed in rats undergoing ILT as the study longevity progressed. Potential contributory mechanisms underlying beneficial effects of ILT include reduced inflammation and restoration of anti-nociceptive inhibitory processes as indicated by neurochemical assays in spinal tissue of remaining rats at 2 years post-SCI. The benefits of chronic ILT suggest that long-term physical exercise therapy can produce powerful and prolonged management of neuropathic pain, partly through sustained reduction of spinal pathological processes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)789-802
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of neurotrauma
Volume38
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 15 2021

Keywords

  • exercise
  • inflammatory cytokines
  • neuropathic pain
  • spinal cord injury

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology

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