Nerve regeneration and the occurrence of three neuropeptides; i.e. substance P (SP), calcitonin gene related peptide (CGRP) and galanin (GAL), were studied during healing of tendon rupture in the rat by semi-quantitative immunohistochemistry. The neuronal findings were related to nociception as assessed by hindpaw withdrawal latencies at thermal and mechanical tests. Experimental rupture of rat Achilles tendon--normally devoid of nerves--elicited extensive nerve ingrowth into the rupture site in the early phase of healing followed by almost complete fiber disappearance (weeks 12-16). The ingrowth of SP and CGRP positive fibers, seen already at weeks 1-2, was associated with increased nociception. Subsequently, the occurrence of GAL positive fibers at weeks 4-6 was associated with decreased nociception. An even stronger relationship to nociception during healing was observed when the rate of change in neuropeptide expression instead of the expression in absolute terms was considered, according to the "cascade" formula of SP(')+CGRP(')-GAL(').It may prove that the observed temporal occurrence of different neuropeptides reflects a role of the peripheral nervous system in regulating synchronously nociception and healing.