A model of experimental peripheral neuropathy producing pain-related disorders has recently been described in the rat. The present study aimed to investigate, using a different and quantifiable behavioural approach, the abnormal pain-related sensations in the animals. The neuropathy was produced by 4 ligatures tied loosely around the common sciatic nerve. 6-8 days after surgery, most of the rats exhibited pain-related disorders ipsilateral to the sciatic ligation, which became maximal 2 weeks after surgery. Mechanical noxious stimulation (pinching of the hind paw) revealed hyperalgesia in all the animals. Rats also exhibited allodynia when tested with the vocalization threshold test to paw pressure (mean vocalization thresholds were 65.5 +/- 3.6% of the preoperative control, P less than 0.01, n = 95). Tests using heat (40, 42, 44, 46 degrees C) and cold (10 degrees C) stimulation (immersion of the rat's hind paw in a bath until it was observed to struggle) indicated hyperalgesia to noxious heat (decrease of 30% in the immersion duration (ID) at a temperature of 46 degrees C), and allodynia to non-noxious heat (decrease of 30% in the temperature of the struggle threshold) and to cold stimulation (decrease by 40% in the ID). In addition, the animals showed modifications in the spontaneous postures of the affected hind paw in a natural setting, suggesting a 'spontaneous' pain-related behaviour (the mean 'pain' rating, derived from the technique used for the formalin test and numbered 0-5, was 2.8 +/- 0.4, P less than 0.01, n = 12). Lastly, sensitized responses were observed to mechanical stimulation after thermal stimulation in the non-noxious range applied to the lesioned but not the non-lesioned paw. The time course of pain-related disorders was comparable whatever the behavioural test, with recovery 2 months after surgery. These results clearly show that the neuropathy produces abnormal pain-related disorders in the rat, which are reminiscent of those observed in some human neuropathies.