K. Olmarker, M. Iwabuchi, K. Larsson, B. Rydevik

October 1998, Volume 7, Issue 5, pp 394 - 399 Original article Read Full Article 10.1007/s005860050096

First Online: 19 October 1998

In an attempt to evaluate whether experimental disc herniation can result in changes in walking pattern, presumably indicating pain, four groups of rats – sham (n = 5), disc puncture (NP, n = 5), displacement of nerve root and ganglion (DIS, n = 5), and the combination of disc puncture and displacement (NP + DIS, n = 6) – were assessed when walking in a Plexiglas corridor at day 2–14 after surgery. All surgical procedures were performed at the L4–5 level on the left side. Step length analysis showed that rats in the NP and DIS series had no difference between the legs initially, but a tendency towards slightly shorter left steps at day 8–12, whereas the animals in the NP + DIS series had slightly shorter right steps day 2–10. However, no statistically significant differences compared with the sham series could be detected for any of the groups. Nerve dysfunction on the operated side was only observed on one occasion in two rats and on 2 days in one rat, all from the NP + DIS series. Apparent limping was seen in three of the animals in the NP + DIS series and in one in the DIS series. Limping and nerve dysfunction only co-incided on one occasion out of a total of 13 observations of limping, suggesting that the limping was induced by pain and not neurologic deficit. In conclusion, the combination of epidural nucleus pulposus and displacement induced a limping whereas nucleus pulposus or displacment alone did not. Assessment of limping thus seemed to provide adequate information of presence of pain, but step length measurement did not provide any useful data. Although walking analysis may be a valuable assessment of sciatic pain, better modalities must be developed to analyze experimentally induced nerve root pain.

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