Pain alters cognitive performance through centrally mediated effects in the brain. In this study, we hypothesized that persistent activation of peripheral nociceptors after injury would lead to the development of a chronic pain state that impairs attention-related behavior and results in changes in peripheral neuron phenotypes. Attentional performance was measured in rats using the 5-choice serial reaction time titration variant to determine the initial impact of partial L5 spinal nerve ligation and the effect of persistent nociceptor activation on the resolution of injury. The changes in peripheral neuronal sensibilities and phenotypes were determined in sensory afferents using electrophysiologic signatures and receptive field properties from dorsal root ganglion recordings. Partial spinal nerve injury impaired attentional performance, and this was further impaired in a graded fashion by nociceptive input through an engineered surface. Impairment in attention persisted for only up to 4 days initially, followed by a second phase 7 to 10 weeks after injury in animals exposed to nociceptive input. In animals with prolonged impairment in behavior, the mechanonociceptors displayed a persistent hypersensitivity marked by decreased threshold, increased activity to a given stimulus, and spontaneous activity. Nerve injury disrupts attentional performance acutely and is worsened with peripheral mechanonociceptor activation. Acute impairment resolves, but persistent nociceptive activation produces re-emergence of impairment in the attention-related task associated with electrophysiological abnormalities in peripheral nociceptors. This is consistent with the development of a chronic pain state marked by cognitive impairment and related to persistently abnormal peripheral input.