Pros and Cons of Clinically Relevant Methods to Assess Pain in Rodents

Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2019 May:100:335-343. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2019.03.009. Epub 2019 Mar 15.


The primary objective of preclinical pain research is to improve the treatment of pain. Decades of research using pain-evoked tests has revealed much about mechanisms but failed to deliver new treatments. Evoked pain-tests are often limited because they ignore spontaneous pain and motor or disruptive side effects confound interpretation of results. New tests have been developed to focus more closely on clinical goals such as reducing pathological pain and restoring function. The objective of this review is to describe and discuss several of these tests. We focus on: Grimace Scale, Operant Behavior, Wheel Running, Burrowing, Nesting, Home Cage Monitoring, Gait Analysis and Conditioned Place Preference/ Aversion. A brief description of each method is presented along with an analysis of the advantages and limitations. The pros and cons of each test will help researchers identify the assessment tool most appropriate to meet their particular objective to assess pain in rodents. These tests provide another tool to unravel the mechanisms underlying chronic pain and help overcome the translational gap in drug development.

Keywords: Burrowing; CPA; CPP; Gait analysis; Grimace scale; Home cage monitoring; Nesting; Nociception; Operant behavior; Pain Assessment; Preclinical validity; Translational research; Wheel running.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal
  • Conditioning, Classical
  • Conditioning, Operant
  • Disease Models, Animal*
  • Gait Analysis
  • Mice
  • Motor Activity
  • Nesting Behavior
  • Nociception
  • Pain / psychology*
  • Pain Measurement / methods*
  • Rats
  • Translational Research, Biomedical / methods