Portions of the brain stem seem normally to inhibit pain. In man and laboratory animals these brain areas and pathways from them to spinal sensory circuits can be activated by focal stimulation. Endogenous opioids appear to be implicated although separate nonopioid mechanisms are also evident. Stress seems to be a natural stimulus triggering pain suppression. Properties of electric footshock have been shown to determine the opioid or nonopioid basis of stress-induced analgesia. Two different opioid systems can be activated by different footshock paradigms. This dissection of stress analgesia has begun to integrate divergent findings concerning pain inhibition and also to account for some of the variance that has obscured the reliable measurement of the effects of stress on tumor growth and immune function.