Loose ligation of a rat's sciatic nerve produces hyperalgesia to thermal stimuli and elicits guarding behavior directed at the afflicted paw. The present experiments test whether localized inflammation induced by the suture material used to ligate the nerve is critical to the development of hyperalgesia. Daily injections of dexamethasone reduced the inflammatory response induced by the sutures and blocked the development of guarding behavior and thermal hyperalgesia. In a second experiment inflammation associated with cotton sutures was enhanced by soaking the sutures in Freund's adjuvant prior to ligation. This caused an augmentation of thermal hyperalgesia and guarding behavior. These results suggest that inflammation around the nerve is critical for the development of guarding behavior and thermal hyperalgesia in this model of neuropathic pain.