We studied whether applying nucleus pulposus tissue, obtained from tail intervertebral discs that had been subjected to chronic mechanical compression, to the lumbar nerve roots produces hyperalgesia, which is thought to be a pain-related behavior in the rat. An Ilizarov-type apparatus was used for immobilization and chronically applied compression of the rat tail for eight weeks. Three weeks after application of extracted nucleus pulposus tissue on the lumbar nerve roots, motor function, sensitivity to noxious mechanical stimuli was measured. Eight weeks after application of the apparatus, the instrumented vertebrae were resected and sections were stained with hematoxylin and eosin to evaluate degeneration of the intervertebral disc. Mechanical hyperalgesia observed in rats treated with the compressed nucleus pulposus tissue was greater and of longer duration than in the rats treated with normal and non-compressed discs. The nucleus pulposus in the instrumented vertebrae showed some histological degeneration. In conclusion, chronic mechanical compression of nucleus pulposus, which resulted in degeneration to some extent, enhanced mechanical hyperalgesia, which was induced by application of nucleus pulposus on the nerve root in the rat. Degenerative intervertebral discs might induce more significant pain than normal intervertebral discs.

© 2002 Orthopaedic Research Society. Published by Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.