Short-term pre- and post-operative stress prolongs incision-induced pain hypersensitivity without changing basal pain perception

Jing Cao, Po Kai Wang, Vinod Tiwari, Lingli Liang, Brianna Marie Lutz, Kun Ruey Shieh, Wei Dong Zang, Andrew G. Kaufman, Alex Bekker, Xiao Qun Gao, Yuan Xiang Tao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Background: Chronic stress has been reported to increase basal pain sensitivity and/or exacerbate existing persistent pain. However, most surgical patients have normal physiological and psychological health status such as normal pain perception before surgery although they do experience short-term stress during pre- and post-operative periods. Whether or not this short-term stress affects persistent postsurgical pain is unclear. Results: In this study, we showed that pre- or post-surgical exposure to immobilization 6h daily for three consecutive days did not change basal responses to mechanical, thermal, or cold stimuli or peak levels of incision-induced hypersensitivity to these stimuli; however, immobilization did prolong the duration of incision-induced hypersensitivity in both male and female rats. These phenomena were also observed in post-surgical exposure to forced swimming 25min daily for 3 consecutive days. Short-term stress induced by immobilization was demonstrated by an elevation in the level of serum corticosterone, an increase in swim immobility, and a decrease in sucrose consumption. Blocking this short-term stress via intrathecal administration of a selective glucocorticoid receptor antagonist, RU38486, or bilateral adrenalectomy significantly attenuated the prolongation of incision-induced hypersensitivity to mechanical, thermal, and cold stimuli. Conclusion: Our results indicate that short-term stress during the pre- or post-operative period delays postoperative pain recovery although it does not affect basal pain perception. Prevention of short-term stress may facilitate patients' recovery from postoperative pain.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number73
JournalMolecular Pain
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2 2015


  • Incision
  • Postsurgical pain
  • Short-term forced swimming
  • Short-term immobilization
  • Stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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