Experimental human pain models: a review of standardised methods for preclinical testing of analgesics

Basic Clin Pharmacol Toxicol. 2004 Sep;95(3):97-111. doi: 10.1111/j.1742-7843.2004.950301.x.


Treatment of pain is one of the major challenges in clinical medicine. However, it is often difficult to evaluate the effect of a treatment, as the many symptoms of the underlying diseases often confound this assessment. Furthermore, as the pain mechanisms in many diseases are poorly understood, the limited successful trial and error approach is most often used in the selection of analgesics. Hence, there is a need for new methods in the characterization and treatment of pain. Human experimental pain models offer the possibility to explore the pain system under controlled settings. The models can also be used to screen the analgesic profiles of drugs targeted to treat pain. This review gives a brief introduction to the methods used to evoke and assess pain in the skin, muscle and viscera. New methods using multimodal stimulation and activation of central pain mechanisms can to a higher degree mimic the clinical situation, and such methods are recommended in the future screening of analgesics. Examples of the use of experimental pain models in the testing of analgesics are given. With these models the therapeutic spectrum may be defined from a differentiated knowledge on the effect of drugs on the pain system. Such information may be used in the future guidelines for trials and clinical use of analgesics.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Analgesics / therapeutic use*
  • Drug Evaluation / methods
  • Drug Evaluation / standards*
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological
  • Muscles / physiopathology
  • Pain / drug therapy*
  • Pain / etiology
  • Pain / physiopathology
  • Pain Measurement / methods
  • Pain Threshold
  • Physical Stimulation / methods
  • Skin / physiopathology
  • Stimulation, Chemical
  • Viscera / physiopathology


  • Analgesics