Chronic pain may be genetic
The risk of developing chronic pain may depend partially on genetics, according to new research.
In the study, scientists recruited 2,721 patients with chronic pain—defined as persistent pain continuing to occur for weeks, months or years. The patients, who were all taking prescribed opioid pain medications, were asked to rate the intensity of their pain on a scale of 0 to 10. Participants who chose 0-3 were classified as having “low pain perception,” while those who chose 4-6 had “moderate pain perception,” and 7-10 had “high pain perception.”
The researchers then examined each group of participants separately in order to identify similar genetic variants. They found a specific gene to be prominent in each group; the genetic variant DRD2 was 25 percent more likely to be present in the high pain group than in the moderate pain group, while two genetic variants—COMT and OPRK—were 25 percent and 19 percent, respectively, more likely to be present in the moderate pain group than in the high pain group. There was also a gene called DRD1 that was found to be 33 percent more common in the low pain group than in the high pain group.
The findings, which will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s annual meeting in Philadelphia this week. may help doctors better understand their patients’ perception of pain, researchers said. Currently, people with chronic pain—which can range from headaches and low back pain to chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia—are commonly treated with oral medications, acupuncture, brain stimulation or surgery. Researchers of the new study said that identifying genes that play a role in pain could provide a target for developing more effective individualized therapies.