An Intensive Locomotor Training Paradigm Improves Neuropathic Pain following Spinal Cord Compression Injury in Rats

Elizabeth A. Dugan, Jacqueline Sagen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Spinal cord injury (SCI) is often associated with both locomotor deficits and sensory dysfunction, including debilitating neuropathic pain. Unfortunately, current conventional pharmacological, physiological, or psychological treatments provide only marginal relief for more than two-thirds of patients, highlighting the need for improved treatment options. Locomotor training is often prescribed as an adjunct therapy for peripheral neuropathic pain but is rarely used to treat central neuropathic pain. The goal of this study was to evaluate the potential anti-nociceptive benefits of intensive locomotor training (ILT) on neuropathic pain consequent to traumatic SCI. Using a rodent SCI model for central neuropathic pain, ILT was initiated either 5d after injury prior to development of neuropathic pain symptoms (the "prevention" group) or delayed until pain symptoms fully developed (∼3 weeks post-injury, the "reversal" group). The training protocol consisted of 5d/week of a ramping protocol that started with 11m/min for 5min and increased in speed (+1m/min/week) and time (1-4 minutes/week) to a maximum of two 20-min sessions/d at 15m/min by the fourth week of training. ILT prevented and reversed the development of heat hyperalgesia and cold allodynia, as well as reversed developed tactile allodynia, suggesting analgesic benefits not seen with moderate levels of locomotor training. Further, the analgesic benefits of ILT persisted for several weeks once training had been stopped. The unique ability of an ILT protocol to produce robust and sustained anti-nociceptive effects, as assessed by three distinct outcome measures for below-level SCI neuropathic pain, suggests that this adjunct therapeutic approach has great promise in a comprehensive treatment strategy for SCI pain.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)622-632
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of neurotrauma
Issue number9
StatePublished - May 1 2015


  • analgesia
  • central neuropathic pain
  • locomotor training
  • rat
  • spinal cord injury

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology


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