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Pain. 2008 Jun;136(3):331-9. Epub 2007 Aug 30.

Descending facilitatory pathways from the RVM initiate and maintain bilateral hyperalgesia after muscle insult.

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Graduate Program in Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Science, Pain Research Program, University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA 52242, USA.


The rostral ventromedial medulla (RVM) is involved in facilitation of spinal nociceptive processing and generation of hyperalgesia in inflammatory and neuropathic pain models. We hypothesized that the bilateral hyperalgesia that develops after repeated intramuscular injections of acidic saline is initiated and maintained by activation of descending facilitatory pathways from the RVM. Male Sprague-Dawley rats were implanted with intracerebral guide cannulae into the nucleus raphe magnus (NRM) or the nucleus gigantocellularis (Gi). Two injections of acidic saline into one gastrocnemius muscle 5 days apart lead to robust hyperalgesia after the second injection. Either ropivacaine (local anesthetic) or vehicle (control) was microinjected into the RVM prior to the first intramuscular acid injection, prior to the second injection, or 24h after the second injection. Mechanical withdrawal thresholds of the paw (von Frey filaments) and the muscle (tweezer) were measured before and 24h after induction of hyperalgesia. The withdrawal thresholds for both the paw (cutaneous secondary hyperalgesia) and muscle (primary hyperalgesia) were decreased 24h after the second intramuscular acid injection in the vehicle control groups. Administration of ropivacaine prior to the first intramuscular acid injection had no effect on development of either cutaneous or muscle hyperalgesia that develops after the second injection. However, neither cutaneous nor muscle hyperalgesia developed in the group treated with ropivacaine prior to the second intramuscular injection. Ropivacaine also significantly reversed the hyperalgesia in the group treated 24h after the second intramuscular acid injection. Thus, the RVM is critical for both the development and maintenance of hyperalgesia after muscle insult.

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