Spinal Cord Mechanisms of Chronic Pain and Clinical Implications
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- Thomas Cheng, H. Curr Pain Headache Rep (2010) 14: 213. doi:10.1007/s11916-010-0111-0
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Chronic pain is a prevalent and challenging problem for most medical practitioners. Because of the complex pathologic mechanisms involved in chronic pain, optimal treatment is still under development. The spinal cord is an important gateway for peripheral pain signals transmitted to the brain. In chronic pain states, painful stimuli trigger afferent fibers in the dorsal horn to release neuropeptides and neurotransmitters. These events induce multiple inflammatory and neuropathic processes in the spinal cord dorsal horn, and trigger modification and plasticity of local neural circuits. As a result, ongoing noxious signals to the brain are amplified and prolonged, a phenomenon known as central sensitization. In this review, the molecular events associated with central sensitization, as well as their clinical implications, are discussed.