I am a
Home I AM A Search Login

Papers of the Week

Papers: 7 Sep 2019 - 13 Sep 2019

2020 Mar - Apr

J Pain



Mechanisms of below-level pain following spinal cord injury (SCI).


Vierck C
J Pain. 2020 Mar - Apr; 21(3-4):262-280.
PMID: 31493490.


Mechanisms of below-level pain are discoverable as rostral neural adaptations to spinal injury. Accordingly, the strategy of investigations summarized here has been to characterize behavioral and neural responses to below-level stimulation over time following selective lesions of spinal gray and/or white matter. Assessments of human pain and the pain sensitivity of humans and laboratory animals following spinal injury have revealed common disruptions of pain processing. Interruption of the spinothalamic pathway partially deafferents nocireceptive cerebral neurons, rendering them spontaneously active and hypersensitive to remaining inputs. The spontaneous activity among these neurons is disorganized and unlikely to generate pain. However, activation of these neurons by their remaining inputs can result in chronic pain. Also, injury to spinal gray matter results in a cascade of secondary events, including excitotoxicity, with rostral propagation of excitatory influences that contribute to activation of deafferented neurons and chronic pain. Establishment and maintenance of below-level pain results from combined influences of injured and spared axons in the spinal white matter and injured neurons in spinal gray matter on processing of nociception by hyperexcitable cerebral neurons that are partially deafferented. A model of spinal stenosis suggests that ischemic injury to the core spinal region can generate below-level pain. Additional questions are raised about demyelination, epileptic discharge, autonomic activation, prolonged activity of C nocireceptive neurons and thalamocortical plasticity in the generation of below-level pain. PERSPECTIVE: An understanding of mechanisms can direct therapeutic approaches to prevent development of below-level pain or arrest it following SCI. Among the possibilities covered here are surgical and other means of attenuating gray matter excitotoxicity and ascending propagation of excitatory influences from spinal lesions to thalamocortical systems involved in pain encoding and arousal.