Pain and immunity

Joint Bone Spine. 2012 May;79(3):228-36. doi: 10.1016/j.jbspin.2011.10.008. Epub 2011 Nov 26.


Chronic neuropathic and inflammatory pain is a major public health problem. Nociceptors undergo sensitization, first in peripheral tissues then in the central nervous sytem, via neuroimmune interactions linking neurons, glial cells (microglia and astrocytes), and immune cells. These interactions may either exacerbate or attenuate the pain and inflammation, which normally reach a state of equilibrium. With more powerful or longer lasting stimuli, specific profiles of microglial and, subsequently, astrocytic activation in the dorsal horn play a key role in neuronal plasticity and transition to chronic pain. Recent insights into the interactions between the nervous system and the immune system suggest a large number of potential therapeutic targets that could be influenced either by targeted inhibition or by directing the neuroimmune response toward the antiinflammatory and analgesic end of its spectrum.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Chronic Pain / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / immunology*
  • Neuralgia / immunology*
  • Neuroimmunomodulation / immunology*
  • Neuronal Plasticity / immunology
  • Nociceptors / immunology*