Postinjury stimulation triggers a transition to nociplastic pain in mice

Kali Hankerd, Kathleen E. McDonough, Jigong Wang, Shao-Jun Tang, Jin Mo Chung, Jun Ho La

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Acute injury-induced pain can transition to chronic nociplastic pain, which predominantly affects women. To facilitate studies on the underlying mechanisms of nociplastic pain, we developed a mouse model in which postinjury thermal stimulation (intermittent 40°C water immersion for 10 minutes at 2 hours postcapsaicin) prolongs capsaicin (ie, experimental injury)-induced transient mechanical hypersensitivity outside of the injury area. Although capsaicin injection alone induced mechanical and thermal hypersensitivity that resolved in ∼7 days (slower recovery in females), the postinjury stimulation prolonged capsaicin-induced mechanical, but not thermal, hypersensitivity up to 3 weeks in both sexes. When postinjury stimulation was given at a lower intensity (30°C) or at later time points (40°C at 1-3 days postcapsaicin), chronification of mechanical hypersensitivity occurred only in females. Similar chronification could be induced by a different postinjury stimulation modality (vibration of paw) or with a different injury model (plantar incision). Notably, the 40°C postinjury stimulation did not prolong capsaicin-induced inflammation in the hind paw, indicating that the prolonged mechanical hypersensitivity in these mice arises without clear evidence of ongoing injury, reflecting nociplastic pain. Although morphine and gabapentin effectively alleviated this persistent mechanical hypersensitivity in both sexes, sexually dimorphic mechanisms mediated the hypersensitivity. Specifically, ongoing afferent activity at the previously capsaicin-injected area was critical in females, whereas activated spinal microglia were crucial in males. These results demonstrate that postinjury stimulation of the injured area can trigger the transition from transient pain to nociplastic pain more readily in females, and sex-dependent mechanisms maintain the nociplastic pain state.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)461-473
Number of pages13
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Chronification
  • Mechanical hypersensitivity
  • Microglia
  • Nociplastic pain
  • Sexually dimorphic

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


Dive into the research topics of 'Postinjury stimulation triggers a transition to nociplastic pain in mice'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this