Inhibition of Muscular Nociceptive Afferents via the Activation of Cutaneous Nociceptors in a Rat Model of Inflammatory Muscle Pain

Yehong Fang 1,2 • Jie Zhu 1,3 • Wanru Duan 4 • Yikuan Xie 1 • Chao Ma 1

1 Institute of Basic Medical Sciences, Department of Human Anatomy, Histology and Embryology, Neuroscience Center, Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, School of Basic Medicine, Peking Union Medical College, Beijing 100005, China

2 Joint Laboratory of Anesthesia and Pain, Peking Union Medical College, Beijing 100730, China

3 Department of Radiation Oncology, Sichuan Cancer Hospital and Institute, Sichuan Cancer Center, School of Medicine, University of Electronic Science and Technology of China, Chengdu 610054, China

4 Department of Neurosurgery, Xuanwu Hospital, Capital Medical University, Beijing 100053, China


Topical irritants such as capsaicin (CAP), peppermint oil (PO), and mustard oil (MO) are effective in relieving inflammatory muscle pain. We investigated the effects of topical irritants in a rat model of inflammatory muscle pain produced by injecting complete Freund’s adjuvant (CFA) into the tibialis anterior muscle. CFA-induced mechanical hypersensitivity and the spontaneous activity of muscular nociceptive afferents, and decreased weight-bearing of the hindlimb were relieved by topical application of CAP, PO, or MO on the skin overlying the inflamed muscle. The effects of topical irritants were abolished when applied to the skin on the ipsilateral plantar region or on the contralateral leg, or when the relevant cutaneous nerve or dorsal root was transected. Our results demonstrated that topical irritants may alleviate inflammatory muscle pain via activating cutaneous nociceptors and subsequently inhibiting the abnormal activity of muscular nociceptive neurons.


Inflammatory muscle pain; Muscular nociceptor; Cutaneous nociceptor; Capsaicin


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