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Basic Science of Pain
Joyce A. DeLeo, PhD
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The author did not receive grants or outside funding in support of her research for or preparation of this manuscript. She did not receive payments or other benefits or a commitment or agreement to provide such benefits from a commercial entity. No commercial entity paid or directed, or agreed to pay or direct, any benefits to any research fund, foundation, educational institution, or other charitable or nonprofit organization with which the author is affiliated or associated.

The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, Incorporated
J Bone Joint Surg Am, 2006 Apr 01;88(suppl 2):58-62. doi: 10.2106/JBJS.E.01286
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Abstract

The origin of the theory that the transmission of pain is through a single channel from the skin to the brain can be traced to the philosopher and scientist René Descartes. This simplified scheme of the reflex was the beginning of the development of the modern doctrine of reflexes. Unfortunately, Descartes' reflex theory directed both the study and treatment of pain for more than 330 years. It is still described in physiology and neuroscience textbooks as fact rather than theory. The gate control theory proposed by Melzack and Wall in 1965 rejuvenated the field of pain study and led to further investigation into the phenomena of spinal sensitization and central nervous system plasticity, which are the potential pathophysiologic correlates of chronic pain. The processing of pain takes place in an integrated matrix throughout the neuroaxis and occurs on at least three levels—at peripheral, spinal, and supraspinal sites. Basic strategies of pain control monopolize on this concept of integration by attenuation or blockade of pain through intervention at the periphery, by activation of inhibitory processes that gate pain at the spinal cord and brain, and by interference with the perception of pain. This article discusses each level of pain modulation and reviews the mechanisms of action of opioids and potential new analgesics. A brief description of animal models frames a discussion about recent advances regarding the role of glial cells and central nervous system neuroimmune activation and innate immunity in the etiology of chronic pain states. Future investigation into the discovery and development of novel, nonopioid drug therapy may provide needed options for the millions of patients who suffer from chronic pain syndromes, including syndromes in which the pain originates from peripheral nerve, nerve root, spinal cord, bone, muscle, and disc.

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    These activities have been planned and implemented in accordance with the Essential Areas and policies of the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) through the joint sponsorship of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, Inc. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons is accredited by the ACCME to provide continuing medical education for physicians.
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