An Overview of Animal Models of Pain: Disease Models and Outcome Measures

J Pain. 2013 Nov;14(11):1255-69. doi: 10.1016/j.jpain.2013.06.008. Epub 2013 Sep 12.


Pain is ultimately a perceptual phenomenon. It is built from information gathered by specialized pain receptors in tissue, modified by spinal and supraspinal mechanisms, and integrated into a discrete sensory experience with an emotional valence in the brain. Because of this, studying intact animals allows the multidimensional nature of pain to be examined. A number of animal models have been developed, reflecting observations that pain phenotypes are mediated by distinct mechanisms. Animal models of pain are designed to mimic distinct clinical diseases to better evaluate underlying mechanisms and potential treatments. Outcome measures are designed to measure multiple parts of the pain experience, including reflexive hyperalgesia measures, sensory and affective dimensions of pain, and impact of pain on function and quality of life. In this review, we discuss the common methods used for inducing each of the pain phenotypes related to clinical pain syndromes as well as the main behavioral tests for assessing pain in each model.

Perspective: Understanding animal models and outcome measures in animals will assist in translating data from basic science to the clinic.

Keywords: Pain; affective; animal model; behavior; cancer; escape-avoidance; incision; inflammation; joint; muscle; neuropathic; place preference; reflex.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology
  • Disease Models, Animal*
  • Hyperalgesia / physiopathology
  • Hyperalgesia / therapy
  • Neuralgia / physiopathology
  • Neuralgia / therapy
  • Pain / physiopathology*
  • Pain Management*
  • Pain Measurement*