Neuropathic pain: early spontaneous afferent activity is the trigger

Pain. 2005 Aug;116(3):243-256. doi: 10.1016/j.pain.2005.04.017.


Intractable neuropathic pain often results from nerve injury. One immediate event in damaged nerve is a sustained increase in spontaneous afferent activity, which has a well-established role in ongoing pain. Using two rat models of neuropathic pain, the CCI and SNI models, we show that local, temporary nerve blockade of this afferent activity permanently inhibits the subsequent development of both thermal hyperalgesia and mechanical allodynia. Timing is critical-the nerve blockade must last at least 3-5 days and is effective if started immediately after nerve injury, but not if started at 10 days after injury when neuropathic pain is already established. Effective nerve blockade also prevents subsequent development of spontaneous afferent activity measured electrophysiologically. Similar results were obtained in both pain models, and with two blockade methods (200mg of a depot form bupivacaine at the injury site, or perfusion of the injured nerve just proximal to the injury site with TTX). These results indicate that early spontaneous afferent fiber activity is the key trigger for the development of pain behaviors, and suggest that spontaneous activity may be required for many of the later changes in the sensory neurons, spinal cord, and brain observed in neuropathic pain models. Many pre-clinical and clinical studies of pre-emptive analgesia have used much shorter duration of blockade, or have not started immediately after the injury. Our results suggest that effective pre-emptive analgesia can be achieved only when nerve block is administered early after injury and lasts several days.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / drug effects
  • Action Potentials / physiology
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Anesthetics, Local / therapeutic use*
  • Animals
  • Axotomy / methods
  • Behavior, Animal
  • Bupivacaine / therapeutic use*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Functional Laterality
  • Hot Temperature / adverse effects
  • Hyperalgesia / drug therapy
  • Ligation / methods
  • Male
  • Nerve Block / methods
  • Pain Measurement / drug effects
  • Pain Measurement / methods
  • Pain Threshold / drug effects*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Reaction Time / drug effects
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Sciatic Neuropathy / drug therapy*
  • Sciatic Neuropathy / etiology
  • Sciatic Neuropathy / physiopathology
  • Tetrodotoxin / therapeutic use*
  • Time Factors
  • Touch


  • Anesthetics, Local
  • Tetrodotoxin
  • Bupivacaine