Two-week cast immobilization induced chronic widespread hyperalgesia in rats

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Abstract

It has been postulated that physical immobilization is an essential factor in developing chronic pain after trauma or surgery in an extremity. However, the mechanisms of sustained immobilization-induced chronic pain remain poorly understood. The present study, therefore, aimed to develop a rat model for chronic post-cast pain (CPCP) and to clarify the mechanism(s) underlying CPCP. To investigate the effects of cast immobilization on pain behaviours in rats, one hindlimb was immobilized for 2 weeks with a cast and remobilization was conducted for 10 weeks. Cast immobilization induced muscle atrophy and inflammatory changes in the immobilized hindlimb that began 2 h after cast removal and continued for 1 week. Spontaneous pain-related behaviours (licking and reduction in weight bearing) in the immobilized hindlimb were observed for 2 weeks, and widespread mechanical hyperalgesia in bilateral calves, hindpaws and tail all continued for 5–10 weeks after cast removal. A sciatic nerve block with lidocaine 24 h after cast removal transitorily abolished bilateral mechanical hyperalgesia in CPCP rats, suggesting that sensory inputs originating in the immobilized hindlimb contribute to the mechanism of both ipsilateral and contralateral hyperalgesia. Intraperitoneal injection of the free radical scavengers 4-hydroxy-2,2,6,6-tetramethylpiperydine-1-oxy1 or N-acetylcysteine 24 h after cast removal clearly inhibited mechanical hyperalgesia in bilateral calves and hindpaws in CPCP rats. These results suggest that cast immobilization induces ischaemia/reperfusion injury in the hindlimb and consequent production of oxygen free radicals, which may be involved in the mechanism of widespread hyperalgesia in CPCP rats.

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