We recently demonstrated the utility of quantifying spontaneous pain in mice via the blinded coding of facial expressions. As the majority of preclinical pain research is in fact performed in the laboratory rat, we attempted to modify the scale for use in this species. We present herein the Rat Grimace Scale, and show its reliability, accuracy, and ability to quantify the time course of spontaneous pain in the intraplantar complete Freund's adjuvant, intraarticular kaolin-carrageenan, and laparotomy (post-operative pain) assays. The scale's ability to demonstrate the dose-dependent analgesic efficacy of morphine is also shown. In addition, we have developed software, Rodent Face Finder®, which successfully automates the most labor-intensive step in the process. Given the known mechanistic dissociations between spontaneous and evoked pain, and the primacy of the former as a clinical problem, we believe that widespread adoption of spontaneous pain measures such as the Rat Grimace Scale might lead to more successful translation of basic science findings into clinical application. © 2011 Sotocinal et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.