A C-fiber reflex elicited by electrical stimulation within the territory of the sural nerve, was recorded from the ipsilateral biceps femoris muscle in anesthetized rats. The temporal evolution of the response was studied using a constant stimulus intensity (3 x threshold) and recruitment curves were built by varying stimulus intensity from 0 to 7 x threshold. The i.v. administration of aspirin, indomethacin, ketoprofen, paracetamol (= acetaminophen) and lysine clonixinate resulted in dose-dependent depressions of the C-fiber reflex by up to 30 to 40%. By contrast, saline was ineffective. High doses of the effective drugs that produced large disturbances in heart rate and/or acid-base equilibrium were not considered in the pharmacological analysis. When a constant level of stimulation was used, different dose-dependent profiles of drug action were observed. Aspirin induced a slow and gradual depression, although indomethacin, ketoprofen and paracetamol produced a peak effect within the first 10-min period and then reached a steady state phase for up to 30 min. The depressive effects of lysine clonixinate appeared more stable. When recruitment curves were built with a range of nociceptive stimulus intensities, all the drugs produced a dose-dependent decrease in the slopes and the areas under the recruitment curves without any major modification in the thresholds. The order of potency was the same for both stimulation paradigms, e.g., aspirin < paracetamol < lysine clonixinate = ketoprofen < indomethacin. It is concluded that NSAID elicit significant antinociceptive effects at a central level, which do not depend on the existence of a hyperalgesic or inflammatory state.