Assessment of functional and behavioral changes sensitive to painful disc degeneration

Alon Lai, Andrew Moon, Devina Purmessur, Branko Skovrlj, Beth A. Winkelstein, Samuel K. Cho, Andrew C. Hecht, James C. Iatridis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


The development of an in vivo rodent discogenic pain model can provide insight into mechanisms for painful disc degeneration. Painful disc degeneration in rodents can be inferred by examining responses to external stimuli, observing pain-related behaviors, and measuring functional performance. This study compared the sensitivity of multiple pain and functional assessment methods to disc disruption for identifying the parameters sensitive to painful disc degeneration in rats. Disc degeneration was induced in rats by annular injury with saline injection. The severity of disc degeneration, pain sensitivity, and functional performance were compared to sham and naïve control rats. Saline injection induced disc degeneration with decreased disc height and MRI signal intensity as well as more fibrous nucleus pulposus, disorganized annular lamellae and decreased proteoglycan. Rats also demonstrated increased painful behaviors including decreased hindpaw mechanical and thermal sensitivities, increased grooming, and altered gait patterns with hindpaw mechanical hyperalgesia and duration of grooming tests being most sensitive. This is the first study to compare sensitivities of different pain assessment methods in an in vivo rat model of disc degeneration. Hindpaw mechanical sensitivity and duration of grooming were the most sensitive parameters to surgically induced degenerative changes and overall results were suggestive of disc degeneration associated pain.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)755-764
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Orthopaedic Research
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1 May 2015


  • disc degeneration
  • discogenic pain
  • functional performance
  • in vivo rat model
  • pain sensitivity


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