Pathophysiology and treatment of pain in joint disease

Author(s): Schaible HG1, Schmelz M, Tegeder I


Deep somatic pain originating in joints and tendons is a major therapeutic challenge. Spontaneous pain and mechanical hypersensitivity can develop as a consequence of sensitization of primary afferents directly involved in the inflammatory process, but also following sensitization of neuronal processing in the spinal cord (central sensitization) or higher centres. Inflammatory pain is linked to sensitization of sensory proteins at the nociceptive endings whereas pain originating from nerve damage (neuropathic pain) has been linked to changes in axonal ion channels producing ectopic discharge in nociceptors as a source of pain. New targets for analgesic therapy include sensory proteins at the nociceptive nerve endings such as the activating TRPV and ASIC channels, but also inhibitory opioid and cannabinoid receptors. Therapeutic targets are also found among the axonal channels that set membrane potential and modulate discharge frequency such as voltage sensitive sodium channels and various potassium channels.

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