Central changes in processing of mechanoreceptive input in capsaicin-induced secondary hyperalgesia in humans

J Physiol. 1992 Mar;448:765-80. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.1992.sp019069.


1. Capsaicin, the algesic substance in chilli peppers, was injected intradermally in healthy human subjects. A dose of 100 micrograms given in a volume of 10 microliters caused intense pain lasting for a few minutes after injection and resulted in a narrow area of hyperalgesia to heat and a wide surrounding area of hyperalgesia to mechanical stimuli (stroking) lasting for 1-2 h. 2. Nerve compression experiments with selective block of impulse conduction in myelinated (A) but not in unmyelinated (C) fibres indicated that afferent signals in C fibres contributed to pain from capsaicin injection and to heat hyperalgesia, whereas conduction in afferent A fibres was necessary for the perception of mechanical hyperalgesia. 3. Electrical intraneural microstimulation normally eliciting non-painful tactile sensations was accompanied by pain when the sensation was projected to skin areas within the region of mechanical hyperalgesia induced by capsaicin injection. 4. The threshold for pain evoked by intraneural microstimulation was reversibly lowered and pain from suprathreshold stimulation was exaggerated during the period of mechanical hyperalgesia, regardless of lidocaine anaesthesia of the cutaneous innervation territory of the stimulated fibres. 5. The results indicate that hyperalgesia to stroking on a skin area surrounding a painful intradermal injection of capsaicin is due to reversible changes in the central processing of mechanoreceptive input from myelinated fibres which normally evoke non-painful tactile sensations.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Capsaicin / adverse effects*
  • Electric Stimulation
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hyperalgesia / chemically induced*
  • Hyperalgesia / physiopathology
  • Male
  • Mechanoreceptors / physiopathology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Nerve Block
  • Nerve Fibers, Myelinated / physiology
  • Neural Conduction / drug effects
  • Pain Measurement
  • Sensory Thresholds / drug effects
  • Time Factors


  • Capsaicin