An article titled “High-intensity swimming exercise decreases glutamate-induced nociception by activation of G-protein-coupled receptors inhibiting phosphorylated protein kinase A” by Martins et al (see library) discusses why swimming helps mediate chronic pain. In short, swimming (as well as other forms of exercise) releases the body’s natural opioid, adenosine, and cannabinoid receptors – yep, our bodies can give us a buzz.
This particular study, which was done on mice who were trained to swim for up to 30 minutes at a time, focused on glutamate-induced pain. Glutamate is a neurotransmitter. Nerve cells use it to talk to each other (glutamate – as in monosodium glutamate – is one of the things fibro patients should avoid in foods). They injected glutamate in the mice, either in the paw (causing the mice to lick, indicating pain) or the spine, and then they set them on a two-week training program where they eventually swam 30 minutes per day. Swimming essentially stopped pain reactions to the injected glutamine. They also noted that untrained mice had increased blood lactate levels (lactic acid causes muscle pain during exercise) when they were set to swimming, but as they trained, those levels decreased.
There is a lot more to this study, including levels of protein kinase A and phosphorylation, but my own understanding of all this is too limited. I have several other articles to read through, so hopefully I’ll understand better as I read, and I can explain more then. In the meantime, I can say (to myself as an encouragement) swimming will help with time. I’m not sure, however, if I’m swimming enough and at a high enough intensity to get the effects described in this article. Today, besides the overall general fibro-flu (relentlessness scale = 9; pain scale = 6), the backs of my hands and feet hurt whenever I move them. I never thought about muscles being on the back of my hands and feet.
Anyway, I’m starting week three. Go natural opioids, cannabinioids, and adenosine!