The role of sodium channels in chronic pain

Simon R. Levinson, Songjiang Luo, Michael A. Henry

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


Here we review recent research into the mechanisms of chronic pain that has focused on neuronal sodium channels, a target of classic analgesic agents. We first discuss evidence that specific sodium channel isoforms are essential for the detection and conduction of normal acutely painful stimuli from nociceptors. We then review findings that show changes in sodium channel expression and localization in chronic inflammation and nerve injury in animal and human tissues. We conclude by discussing the role that myelination plays in organizing and maintaining sodium channel clusters at nodes of Ranvier in normal development and how inflammatory processes or nerve injury alter the characteristics of such clusters. Based on these findings, we suggest that chronic pain may in part result from partial demyelination of axons during chronic injury, which creates aberrant sodium channel clusters that serve as sites of ectopic sensitivity or spontaneous activity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)155-165
Number of pages11
JournalMuscle and Nerve
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 2012


  • Chronic pain
  • Demyelination
  • Nociception
  • Nodes of ranvier
  • Sodium channels

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Physiology (medical)


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