Therapies directed against tumour necrosis factor (TNF) are effective for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis and reduce pain scores in this condition. In this study, we sought to explore mechanisms by which TNF contributes to inflammatory pain in an experimental model of arthritis. The effects of an anti-TNF agent, etanercept, on behavioural pain responses arising from rat monoarthritis induced by complete Freund's adjuvant were assessed and compared with expression of TNF receptors (TNFRs) by dorsal root ganglion (DRG) cells at corresponding time points. Etanercept had no effect on evoked pain responses in normal animals but exerted a differential effect on the thermal and mechanical hyperalgesia associated with rat arthritis induced by complete Freund's adjuvant (CFA). Joint inflammation was associated with increased TNFR1 and TNFR2 expression on DRG cells, which was maintained throughout the time course of the model. TNFR1 expression was increased in neuronal cells of the DRG bilaterally after arthritis induction. In contrast, TNFR2 expression occurred exclusively on non-neuronal cells of the macrophage-monocyte lineage, with cell numbers increasing in a TNF-dependent fashion during CFA-induced arthritis. A strong correlation was observed between numbers of macrophages and the development of mechanical hyperalgesia in CFA-induced arthritis. These results highlight the potential for TNF to play a vital role in inflammatory hyperalgesia, both by a direct action on neurons via TNFR1 and by facilitating the accumulation of macrophages in the DRG via a TNFR2-mediated pathway.