The ability of divalent manganese to enter neurons via calcium channels makes manganese an excellent MRI contrast agent for the imaging of nociception, the afferent neuronal encoding of pain perception. There is growing evidence that nociceptive neurons possess increased expression and activity of calcium channels, which would allow for the selective accumulation of manganese at these sites. In this study, we show that oral manganese chloride leads to increased enhancement of peripheral nerves involved in nociception on T(1)-weighted MRI. Oral rather than intravenous administration was chosen for its potentially better safety profile, making it a better candidate for clinical translation with important applications, such as pain diagnosis, therapy and research. The spared nerve injury (SNI) model of neuropathic pain was used for the purposes of this study. SNI rats were given, sequentially, increasing amounts of manganese chloride (lowest, 2.29 mg/100 g weight; highest, 20.6 mg/100 g weight) with alanine and vitamin D(3) by oral gavage. Compared with controls, SNI rats demonstrated increased signal-to-background ratios on T(1)-weighted fast spin echo MRI, which was confirmed by and correlated strongly with spectrometry measurements of nerve manganese concentration. We also found the difference between SNI and control rats to be greater at 48 h than at 24 h after dosing, indicating increased manganese retention in addition to increased manganese uptake in nociceptive nerves. This study demonstrates that oral manganese is a viable method for the imaging of nerves associated with increased nociceptive activity.