An accelerating basic science literature is providing key insights into the mechanisms by which spinal neuropeptide Y (NPY) inhibits chronic pain. A key target of pain inhibition is the G-coupled neuropeptide Y1 receptor (Y1). Y1 is located in key sites of pain transmission, including the peptidergic subpopulation of primary afferent neurons and a dense subpopulation of small, excitatory, glutamatergic/somatostatinergic interneurons (Y1-INs) that are densely expressed in the dorsal horn, particularly in superficial lamina I-II. Selective ablation of spinal Y1-INs with an NPY-conjugated saporin neurotoxin attenuates the development of peripheral nerve injury-induced mechanical and cold hypersensitivity. Conversely, conditional knockdown of NPY expression or intrathecal administration of Y1 antagonists reinstates hypersensitivity in models of chronic latent pain sensitization. These and other results indicate that spinal NPY release and the consequent inhibition of pain facilitatory Y1-INs represent an important mechanism of endogenous analgesia. This mechanism can be mimicked with exogenous pharmacological approaches (e.g. intrathecal administration of Y1 agonists) to inhibit mechanical and thermal hypersensitivity and spinal neuron activity in rodent models of neuropathic, inflammatory, and postoperative pain. Pharmacological activation of Y1 also inhibits mechanical- and histamine-induced itch. These immunohistochemical, pharmacological, and cell type-directed lesioning data, in combination with recent transcriptomic findings, point to Y1-INs as a promising therapeutic target for the development of spinally directed NPY-Y1 agonists to treat both chronic pain and itch.