Operant methods that allow animals to avoid painful stimuli are interpreted to assess the aversive quality of pain; however, such measurements require investigator-initiated stimuli to animals. Here we developed a shuttle maze test to repeatedly assess activity associated nociception without forced stimulation. Rats ambulate back and forth between two treat feeders by taking either a short route with a prickly surfaced arch or a longer route with a smooth floor. L5-L6 spinal nerve ligation (SNL) reduced the preference for the short route with the arch, correlated with hypersensitivity in the hind paw. Oral gabapentin restored the short route preference and reduced hypersensitivity in SNL rats, and blockade of spinal α2-adrenoceptors reduced gabapentin's effects on hypersensitivity but not on preference index. These results suggest that SNL injury alters behavior in the shuttle maze test and that the shuttle maze test shows comparable results to reflexive hypersensitivity after SNL in magnitude and response to gabapentin.