Pathogenesis of sciatic pain: role of herniated nucleus pulposus and deformation of spinal nerve root and dorsal root ganglion

Pain. 1998 Nov;78(2):99-105. doi: 10.1016/S0304-3959(98)00119-5.


The basic pathophysiologic mechanisms related to disc herniation and sciatica are poorly understood. Recently it was demonstrated that nucleus pulposus from an intervertebral disc could induce structural and functional changes in adjacent nerve roots when applied epidurally, however, it is not known if such changes are painful. In a model for inducing disc herniation in the rat, we found that puncture of a lumbar disc with subsequent herniation of nucleus pulposus without nerve root compression, or chronic displacement of the 4th lumbar nerve root and ganglion, did not individually induce significant changes in thresholds for mechanical or thermal stimulation compared to sham-operated animals. However, the combination of disc puncture and displacement induced a reduction of the threshold for thermal stimulation, indicating hyperalgesia, that was present 2 days after surgery and gradually recovered during a 14-day period. These data and the associated description of this new model for experimental disc herniation may increase our understanding of the pathophysiologic events leading to sciatica and help in evaluating new modalities for diagnosis and treatment of disc herniation and sciatica.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology
  • Female
  • Ganglia, Spinal* / pathology
  • Hot Temperature
  • Intervertebral Disc / physiopathology
  • Intervertebral Disc Displacement / complications*
  • Intervertebral Disc Displacement / pathology
  • Nerve Compression Syndromes / complications*
  • Nerve Compression Syndromes / pathology
  • Pain / psychology
  • Pain Threshold / physiology
  • Physical Stimulation
  • Punctures
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Sciatica / etiology*
  • Sciatica / pathology
  • Sciatica / physiopathology
  • Sciatica / psychology
  • Spinal Nerve Roots* / pathology