Nerve injury may lead to chronic neuropathic pain syndromes. We determined whether the extent of central nervous system microglial activation that accompanies nerve injury is age dependent and correlated with behavioral manifestations of pain. We used the Bennett and Xie sciatic nerve chronic constriction injury model (Bennett, G.J., Xie, Y.-K., A peripheral mononeuropathy in rat that produces disorders of pain sensation like those seen in man, Pain, 33 (1998) 87-107) to induce neuropathic pain in three age cohorts of Fischer 344 FBNF1 hybrid rats (4-6, 14-16, and 24-26 months). Rats were assessed for thermal sensitivity (hyperalgesia) of their hind paws pre-injury (day 0) and up to 35 days post injury. On various days post injury, the L4-L5 levels of their spinal cords were reacted for localization of an antibody to OX-42, a marker for microlgia. OX-42 immunoreactivity (ir) was quantified by use of a Bioquant density analysis system. OX-42 ir was heavy in areas of sciatic nerve primary afferent terminations and in the motor columns of its neurons. Aging increases OX-42 ir in the absence of injury. After injury, OX-42 ir increased further, but the increases over control levels decreased with age. Ligation-induced analgesia and hyperalgesia were both correlated with the increases in OX-42 ir, regardless of age.