The impact of morphine after a spinal cord injury. Academic Article uri icon


  • Nociceptive stimulation, at an intensity that elicits pain-related behavior, attenuates recovery of locomotor and bladder functions, and increases tissue loss after a contusion injury. These data imply that nociceptive input (e.g., from tissue damage) can enhance the loss of function after injury, and that potential clinical treatments, such as pretreatment with an analgesic, may protect the damaged system from further secondary injury. The current study examined this hypothesis and showed that a potential treatment (morphine) did not have a protective effect. In fact, morphine appeared to exacerbate the effects of nociceptive stimulation. Experiment 1 showed that after spinal cord injury 20mg/kg of systemic morphine was necessary to induce strong antinociception and block behavioral reactivity to shock treatment, a dose that was much higher than that needed for sham controls. In Experiment 2, contused rats were given one of three doses of morphine (Vehicle, 10, 20mg/kg) prior to exposure to uncontrollable electrical stimulation or restraint alone. Despite decreasing nociceptive reactivity, morphine did not attenuate the long-term consequences of shock. Rats treated with morphine and shock had higher mortality rates, and displayed allodynic responses to innocuous sensory stimuli three weeks later. Independent of shock, morphine per se undermined recovery of sensory function. Rats treated with morphine alone also had significantly larger lesions than those treated with saline. These results suggest that nociceptive stimulation affects recovery despite a blockade of pain-elicited behavior. The results are clinically important because they suggest that opiate treatment may adversely affect the recovery of function after injury.

published proceedings

  • Behav Brain Res

author list (cited authors)

  • Hook, M. A., Liu, G. T., Washburn, S. N., Ferguson, A. R., Bopp, A. C., Huie, J. R., & Grau, J. W

citation count

  • 47

complete list of authors

  • Hook, Michelle A||Liu, Grace T||Washburn, Stephanie N||Ferguson, Adam R||Bopp, Anne C||Huie, John R||Grau, James W

publication date

  • February 2007