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Pain. 2008 Aug 15;138(1):119-29. doi: 10.1016/j.pain.2007.11.015. Epub 2007 Dec 27.

Dorsal horn neurons having input from low back structures in rats.

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Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology, University of Heidelberg, Im Neuenheimer Feld 307, D-69120 Heidelberg, Germany.


The mechanisms of nociception in the low back are poorly understood, partly because systematic recordings from dorsal horn neurons with input from the low back are largely missing. The purpose of this investigation was to (1) identify spinal segments and dorsal horn neurons receiving input from the low back, (2) test the effect of nerve growth factor (NGF) injected into the multifidus muscle (MF) on the neurons' responsiveness, and (3) study the influence of a chronic MF inflammation on the responses. In rats, microelectrode recordings were made in the segments L2, L3, and L5 to find dorsal horn neurons having input from the low back (LB neurons). In control animals, the proportion of LB neurons in L2 was larger than in L3 and L5. Most LB neurons had a convergent input from several tissues. Injections of NGF into MF increased the proportion of LB neurons significantly. A chronic MF inflammation likewise increased the proportion of LB neurons and the input convergence. The centers of the neurons' receptive fields (RFs) were consistently located 2-3 segments caudally relative to their recording site. The results show that (1) input convergence from various tissues is common for LB neurons, (2) the input from structures of the low back is processed 2-3 segments cranially relative to the vertebral level of the RFs, and (3) the responsiveness of LB neurons is increased during a pathologic alteration of the MF. The above findings may be relevant for some cases of chronic low back pain in patients.

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