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This article is the author's final published version in Neurospine, Volume 20, Issue 3, September 2023, Pages 1073 - 1087.

The published version is available at

Copyright © 2023 by the Korean Spinal Neurosurgery Society

This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License ( which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


OBJECTIVE: The objective of this systematic review and meta-analysis was to assess the efficacy of exercise in neuropathic pain following traumatic spinal cord injuries.

METHODS: The search was conducted in MEDLINE, Embase, Scopus, and Web of Science by the end of 2022. Two independent researchers included the articles based on the inclusion and exclusion criteria. A standardized mean difference was calculated for each data and they were pooled to calculate an overall effect size. To assess the heterogeneity between studies, I2 and chi-square tests were utilized. In the case of heterogeneity, meta-regression was performed to identify the potential source.

RESULTS: Fifteen preclinical studies were included. Meta-analysis demonstrated that exercise significantly improves mechanical allodynia (standardized mean difference [SMD], -1.59; 95% confidence interval [CI], -2.16 to -1.02; p < 0.001; I2 = 90.37%), thermal hyperalgesia (SMD, 1.95; 95% CI, 0.96-2.94; p < 0.001), and cold allodynia (SMD, -2.92; 95% CI, -4.4 to -1.43; p < 0.001). The improvement in mechanical allodynia is significantly more in animals with a compression model of SCI (meta-regression coefficient, -1.33; 95% CI, -1.84 to -0.57; p < 0.001) and in mild SCI (p < 0.001). Additionally, the improvement was more prominent if the training was started 7 to 8 days postinjury (coefficient, -2.54; 95% CI, -3.85 to -1.23; p < 0.001) and was continued every day (coefficient, -1.99; 95% CI, -3.07 to -0.9; p < 0.001). Likewise, voluntary exercise demonstrated a significantly more effect size (coefficient, -1.45; 95% CI, -2.67 to -0.23; p = 0.02).

CONCLUSION: Exercise is effective in the amelioration of neuropathic pain. This effect in mechanical allodynia is more prominent if voluntary, continuous training is initiated in the subacute phase of mild SCI.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License