European Journal of Applied Physiology

, Volume 119, Issue 1, pp 91–102 | Cite as

Hypoalgesia after bicycling at lactate threshold is reliable between sessions

  • Henrik Bjarke VaegterEmail author
  • Louise Kathrine Bjerregaard
  • Mia-Maja Redin
  • Sara Hartung Rasmussen
  • Thomas Graven-Nielsen
Original Article



Exercise decreases pain sensitivity known as exercise-induced hypoalgesia (EIH). However, the consistency of EIH after an acute exercise protocol based on subjective ratings of perceived exertion has been questioned. Objectives were to compare the effect on pressure pain thresholds (PPTs) after bicycling with work-rate at the lactate threshold compared with quiet rest, and investigate between-session reliability of EIH.


Thirty-four healthy subjects completed three sessions with 7 days in-between. In session 1, the lactate threshold was determined via blood samples (finger-tip pinprick, > 2 mmol/l increase from warm-up) during a graded bicycling task. In session 2 and 3, all subjects performed (1) 15 min quiet-rest, and (2) 15 min bicycling (work-rate corresponding to the lactate threshold) in the two identical sessions. PPTs at the quadriceps and trapezius muscles were assessed before and after both conditions. Reliability was assessed by intraclass correlations (ICCs).


Bicycling increased quadriceps PPT compared with quiet-rest in both sessions [mean difference: 45 kPa (95% CI 19–72 kPa), P = 0.002]; however, the increase in trapezius PPT was not significant after exercise. The EIH responses demonstrated fair between-session test–retest reliability (quadriceps: ICC = 0.45; trapezius: ICC = 0.57, P < 0.05), and agreement in EIH responders and non-responders between sessions was significant (quadriceps: κ = 0.46 and trapezius: κ = 0.43, P < 0.05).


In conclusion, bicycling at the lactate threshold increased PPT at the exercising muscle with fair reliability of the local EIH response. The results have implications for future EIH studies in subjects with and without pain and for clinicians who design exercise programs for pain relief.


Exercise Exercise-induced hypoalgesia Reliability Pressure pain thresholds Pain sensitivity 



Body mass index


Confidence interval


Conditioned pain modulation


Exercise-induced hypoalgesia


Intraclass correlation coefficient




Blood-lactate concentration


Numerical rating scale


Pressure pain threshold


Repeated-measures analysis of variance


Rating of perceived exertion


Rounds per minute


Standard error of measurement


Maximum rate of oxygen consumption


Author contributions

HBV, LKB, M-MR, SHR, and TG-N: All authors contributed to the design of the study, the analysis and interpretation of the data, as well as making intellectual contributions to its content. HBV, LKB, M-MR, and SHR collected all data in the laboratory. All authors approved the final manuscript.


No funding was received for this study. TGN is a part of Center for Neuroplasticity and Pain (CNAP) supported by the Danish National Research Foundation (DNRF121).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

There are no actual or potential conflicts of interest for any of the authors.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Pain Research Group, Pain CenterOdense University HospitalOdenseDenmark
  2. 2.Department of Clinical Research, Institute of Clinical Research, Faculty of Health SciencesUniversity of Southern DenmarkOdense CDenmark
  3. 3.School of PhysiotherapyUniversity College LillebaeltOdenseDenmark
  4. 4.Department of Health Science and Technology, Faculty of Medicine, Center for Neuroplasticity and Pain (CNAP), SMIAalborg UniversityAalborgDenmark

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