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Papers of the Week

Papers: 29 Oct 2022 - 4 Nov 2022

Human Studies

2022 Oct 31

Sci Rep



Persistent muscle hyperalgesia after adolescent stress is exacerbated by a mild-nociceptive input in adulthood and is associated with microglia activation.


Singaravelu S K, Goitom A D, Graf A P, Moerz H, Schilder A, Hoheisel U, Spanagel R, Treede R-D
Sci Rep. 2022 Oct 31; 12(1):18324.
PMID: 36316425.


Non-specific low back pain (LBP) is a major global disease burden and childhood adversity predisposes to its development. The mechanisms are largely unknown. Here, we investigated if adversity in young rats augments mechanical hyperalgesia and how spinal cord microglia contribute to this. Adolescent rats underwent restraint stress, control animals were handled. In adulthood, all rats received two intramuscular injections of NGF/saline or both into the lumbar multifidus muscle. Stress induced in rats at adolescence lowered low back pressure pain threshold (PPT; p = 0.0001) and paw withdrawal threshold (PWT; p = 0.0007). The lowered muscle PPT persisted throughout adulthood (p = 0.012). A subsequent NGF in adulthood lowered only PPT (d = 0.87). Immunohistochemistry revealed changes in microglia morphology: stress followed by NGF induced a significant increase in ameboid state (p < 0.05). Repeated NGF injections without stress showed significantly increased cell size in surveilling and bushy states (p < 0.05). Thus, stress in adolescence induced persistent muscle hyperalgesia that can be enhanced by a mild-nociceptive input. The accompanying morphological changes in microglia differ between priming by adolescent stress and by nociceptive inputs. This novel rodent model shows that adolescent stress is a risk factor for the development of LBP in adulthood and that morphological changes in microglia are signs of spinal mechanisms involved.