Role of the sympathetic nervous system in acute pain and inflammation

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39 Scopus citations


The sympathetic nervous system serves not only to regulate involuntary functions, but also appears to play an important part in modulating sensory processing. While studies in animal models of neuropathic pain and clinical observations point to a role of the sympathetic nervous system in certain chronic pain states, the function of the sympathetics in postoperative pain and inflammation is debatable. Behavioural studies in rats point to a contribution of the sympathetic postganglionic terminal in the hyperalgesia of cutaneous inflammation and the severity of arthritis. An indirect effect of noradrenaline and inflammatory mediators via the release of prostaglandins has been postulated. Neurophysiological studies of nociceptors in rats and psychophysical studies in humans have failed to provide confirmatory evidence for the role of the sympathetic efferents in inflammatory pain and hyperalgesia. The clinical significance of the potential interaction of the sympathetic nervous system and the somatic afferent system needs further investigation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)241-246
Number of pages6
JournalAnnals of Medicine
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1995


  • Adrenoceptors
  • Arthritis
  • Inflammation
  • Pain
  • Sympathetic nervous system

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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