Strength training protects against muscle pai

March 31, 2022 – Resistance or strength training protected against the development of muscle soreness in mice – and does so by activating androgen receptors, reports a basic scientific study in PAIN®, the official publication of the International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP). The review is published in the Lippincott portfolio by Wolters Kluwer.

Study supports role of testosterone and male sex hormone (androgen) receptors in preventing or alleviating muscle soreness in response to resistance training, according to report by Kathleen A. Sluka, PT, PhD , FAPTA, and colleagues at the University of Iowa, Iowa City. “This information provides a scientific basis for using strength training as a therapeutic tool clinically for people with chronic musculoskeletal pain,” the researchers write.

Testosterone Mediates Benefits of Exercise on Muscle Soreness

Exercise is commonly prescribed to patients with many types of chronic pain, such as low back pain, osteoarthritis, and fibromyalgia. Although many studies have looked at the analgesic effects of exercise, less is known about how resistance training affects musculoskeletal pain. Previous studies by the same research group found that testosterone protects against the development of increased pain (hyperalgesia).

Graduate student Joseph Lesnak, PT, designed a new model to assess the effects of resistance training on muscle soreness in mice. Strength training is a common treatment used by physical therapy clinicians for pain management. In the experimental setup, the mice climbed a ladder with small weights gently attached to their tails.

The tests confirmed that rock climbing was an effective form of resistance training, resulting in increased strength in the front legs. Activity-induced muscle soreness was induced in some groups of mice by injection of a mild acid solution. The aim was to assess how resistance training affected the development of musculoskeletal pain, including the effects of testosterone and androgen receptor levels.

“Eight weeks of resistance training before induction of the pain model blocked the development of muscle pain in both male and female mice,” write Dr. Sluka and coauthors. However, once muscle soreness was established, rock climbing exercise only alleviated pain in male mice. Exercise also caused a short-term increase in testosterone in male mice, but not in females.

To confirm the effects of testosterone on muscle pain, the researchers performed further experiments using an androgen receptor blocker drug. Animals that received the androgen blocker during resistance training did not develop the protective effect against muscle soreness. Once the exercise-induced protective effect was present, it was not affected by the androgen blocker.

“These data suggest that androgen receptor activation is necessary for protection against activity-induced muscle soreness that is produced by the resistance training program,” the researchers write. Results from their animal model may provide useful insights into the use of exercise as a treatment for chronic pain.

“Because both aerobic and resistance-training-based exercise produce analgesia, clinicians may want to consider patient preferences when prescribing exercise modes,” Dr. Sluka and colleagues write. The analgesic effect appears to be systemic, suggesting that strength training need not be targeted at sore muscles for therapeutic benefits.

The results also suggest that resistance training will be more effective at preventing muscle soreness than relieving it. “This suggests that exercise should be continued in the absence of symptoms to prevent the future development of musculoskeletal pain,” the researchers conclude.

Click here to read “Resistance training protects against muscle soreness through activation of androgen receptors in male and female mice”

DOI: 10.1097/j.pain.0000000000002638



PAIN is the official journal of the IASP. Published monthly, PAIN presents original research on the nature, mechanisms and treatment of pain. Available to IASP members as a membership benefit, this peer-reviewed journal provides a forum for the dissemination of multidisciplinary research in the basic and clinical sciences. He is quoted in Current content and Index Medicus.

About the International Association for the Study of Pain

IASP is the leading professional organization for science, practice and education in the field of pain. Membership is open to all professionals involved in pain research, diagnosis or treatment. IASP has over 7,000 members in 133 countries, 90 National Sections and 20 Special Interest Groups (SIGs). IASP brings together scientists, clinicians, healthcare providers and policy makers to stimulate and support the study of pain and translate this knowledge into better pain relief worldwide.

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Richard V. Johnson