Thermal injury (30-s immersion in water at 62°C) of one hind limb of rats caused a gradual withdrawal of the limb from use, such that after 1 week 50% of the animals walked on three legs. At 24 h following thermal lesion and at a time when the lesioned paw was still used for walking there was a reduction in met-and leu-enkephalin content in the periaqueductal grey (PAG) and bilateral reduction in leu-enkephalin content of the globus pallidus, but no change in enkephalin levels in caudate-putamen. One week following the lesion, animals exhibiting complete withdrawal of the injured limb, showed bilateral reduction of met- and leu-enkephalin content of PAG. Both met- and leu-enkephalin were bilaterally reduced in globus pallidus as was the met-enkephalin content in caudate-putamen. In each case the change was more marked in basal ganglia areas contralateral to the lesion. In animals lesioned 1 week previously and which did not use the injured limb, there was no change in the monoamine (or metabolite) content of caudate-putamen or in the spontaneous or potassium-evoked release of 3H-dopamine from striatal slices. Thermal injury did not cause any general change in pain sensitivity and the time of change in pain threshold in the injured limb did not parallel the withdrawal of the affected limb from walking. The results suggest that after a thermal limb lesion, delayed changes in basal ganglia enkephalin content may be important in withdrawing the injured limb from the normal pattern of locomotion. Basal ganglia enkephalins may be involved in a physiological rest mechanism, which allows healing of the affected part.