A low tolerance for pain? Blame your genes
According to new research presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s 66th annual meeting in Philadelphia, researchers have identified key genes linked to why some people have a higher tolerance for pain than others.
Researchers studied the genes of 2,721 participants diagnosed with chronic pain and who were taking prescription opioid pain medications, and found that one specific gene variant was 33 percent more prevalent in the “low pain” group than in the “high pain” group. Other specific genes were also more prevalent among groups with “moderate pain” and “high pain” perceptions.
“Our study is quite significant because it provides an objective way to understand pain and why different individuals have different pain tolerance levels,” said study author Tobore Onojjighofia, MD, MPH, with Proove Biosciences and a member of the American Academy of Neurology in a news release. “Identifying whether a person has these four genes could help doctors better understand a patient’s perception of pain.”
Unlike normal or “acute” pain—the sensation triggered by the nervous system to alert the body to possible injury (think hammer-on-thumb)—chronic pain is persistent, with pain signals continuing to fire in the nervous system for weeks, months or years. This could be due to an ongoing condition, such as arthritis, cancer or an infection, or from a sprained back. Patients who suffer from chronic pain may experience headaches, nerve pain or other conditions.
“Chronic pain can have dramatic effects on a patient’s life,” says Dr. Jay Hurh, a pain management physician and anesthesiologist with Advocate Condell Medical Center in Libertyville, Ill. “So advances in identifying genes that might indicate a patients’ threshold for pain could help in the future. Currently, we try to use medications that slow the conductions of nerve transmissions or that help to regulate certain chemicals in your brain that might help alleviate the actual physical pain.”
In addition, some physicians employ acupuncture, local electrical stimulation, brain stimulation and even relaxation therapy to treat chronic pain conditions.
About the Author
health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Aurora Health sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.