Chronic musculoskeletal pain (CMP) resembling fibromyalgia has been the common complaint of nearly 100,000 Gulf War veterans.
A new study from Middleton Memorial Hospital in Madison and the University of Wisconsin showed that acute exercise can exacerbate the pain but long-term exercise has the opposite outcome and reduces it.
Researchers reported that vets with CMP claimed that heat induced pain stimuli was more intense and unpleasant than evidenced in healthy subjects.
They also had greater leg pain intensity during exercise and were more sensitive to the pain stimuli following acute exercise compared to pre-exercise ratings.
However, there was no significant difference in the pain threshold.
The authors noted that exercise research in chronic muscle pain patients shows a paradox in that acute exercise appears to exacerbate pain while chronic exercise can reduce pain.
They concluded that CMP patients should exercise regularly to avoid disability, even though initial exercise regimens may increase pain in the short run.
The study is published in The Journal of Pain.