Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 236, Issue 8, pp 2309–2319 | Cite as

Influence of remote pain on movement control and muscle endurance during repetitive movements

  • Jeffrey C. Cowley
  • Deanna H. Gates
Research Article


During fatiguing tasks, people adapt their movement strategies to offset effects of muscle fatigue. Painful stimuli may compete for cognitive resources during this process, impairing fatigue adaptation. This study determined how pain affected movement control and muscle endurance during a repetitive task and how pain catastrophizing moderated these effects. Twenty-two healthy young adults performed timed reaching movements until voluntary exhaustion on two separate days. On 1 day, subjects simultaneously experienced ischemic pain in the contralateral arm. Subjective pain, and effort were recorded at regular intervals. Timing errors, distance and speed were calculated for each movement. Detrended fluctuation analysis was used to quantify temporal persistence in each time series. Subjects made shorter, slower movements during the last compared to the first minute of fatigue on both days (p < 0.001). Deviations in movement speed were corrected faster in the no pain condition compared to the pain condition (p = 0.042), but only early during the condition. Time to fatigue was influenced by pain and the order of testing. Subjects performed the task longer on the second day whether the condition was pain or no pain. This effect was larger when the pain condition was first (3.4 compared to 1.1 min. increase). Subjects with high and low pain catastrophizing responded similarly to the painful stimuli. The results suggest that pain causes people to adopt more conservative movement strategies which can affect the fatigue rate, but these effects depend on familiarity with the painful stimulus and the fatiguing task.


Muscle fatigue Pain Motor adaptation Pain catastrophizing Movement control Repetitive movement 



Partial support for this research was provided by a Rackham graduate student research Grant from the University of Michigan. D. H. Gates is supported by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development of the National Institutes of Health [Award number K12HD073945].

Compliance with ethical standards

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. This article does not contain any studies with animals performed by any of the authors.

Conflict of interest

There were no conflicts of interest in this work.

Supplementary material

221_2018_5303_MOESM1_ESM.xlsx (227 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (XLSX 226 KB)


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Copyright information

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

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of KinesiologyUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA
  2. 2.Department of Biomedical EngineeringUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA

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