Spinal cord injuries (SCI) result in a devastating loss of function below the level of the lesion in which there are variable motor recoveries and, in the majority of cases, central neuropathic pain syndromes (CNP) develop several months to years following injury. Unfortunately, the study of chronic pain after SCI has been neglected in the past due in part to the lack of good animal models but largely due to the clinically held dogma that CNP is not a real phenomenon and is psychogenic in nature rather than based on described pathophysiological mechanisms. The purpose of this article is to offer standardized terminology of pain, insight into animal modeling issues of CNP, descriptions of current clinical therapies and to discuss the pathophysiological mechanisms that provide the substrate for CNP that will lead to innovative new therapies. It is hoped that this information will give insight for research strategies as well as better care not only of SCI individuals, but is generalizable to many other CNP syndromes.
Keywords: glutamate, excitatory amino acids, glutamate receptors, central sensitization
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