Many are frustrated with the lack of translational progress in the pain field, in which huge gains in basic science knowledge obtained using animal models have not led to the development of many new clinically effective compounds. A careful re-examination of animal models of pain is therefore warranted. Pain researchers now have at their disposal a much wider range of mutant animals to study, assays that more closely resemble clinical pain states, and dependent measures beyond simple reflexive withdrawal. However, the complexity of the phenomenon of pain has made it difficult to assess the true value of these advances. In addition, pain studies are importantly affected by a wide range of modulatory factors, including sex, genotype and social communication, all of which must be taken into account when using an animal model.