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Four Inherited Chronic Pains and a ‘Dimmer Switch’

United Kingdom – Two new separate studies were recently published on pain. One suggests four (4) common chronic pain conditions that can – in part – be inherited and another, a way to diminish pain by resetting an internal switch in the body.

Pain defined is one of the body’s defensive triggers. It arises in response to various causes such as in injury and illness. It can be acute or chronic depending on the cause and duration. Acute pain has been defined and lasts less than 12 weeks while chronic pain persists beyond 12 weeks. It can result from an ongoing tissue injury due to an underlying disease condition or without clear cause at all.

chronic pain dimmer switch 254x300 Four Inherited Chronic Pains and a ‘Dimmer Switch’

On Inheritance

The first study referred to irritable bowel syndrome, musculoskeletal pain, pelvic pain and dry eye disease as inherited.

It was conducted by the King’s College, London on identical and non-identical twins. The former is known to own identical pairs of DNA. A total of 8,000 pairs were studied.

“The findings clearly showed that chronic pain may be heritable within families.” Said lead investigator Dr. Frances Williams.

Genetics could account for as high as two thirds (2/3) of the probability of acquiring the above mentioned diseases, researchers further believe. But scientists are still unsure about the exact genes that could be accounted for them being inherited.

As for environment, it remains to play a crucial role in disease acquisition among the four.

Dimming the Pain

The second study done at the same institution, King’s College, London, was also conducted on twins. Twenty five (25) pairs of identical twins were tested on their level of sensitivity to pain.

A heat probe was placed on their individual arms. Heat was slowly elevated and the participants pressed a button when the heat became painful for them.

This allowed the researchers to identify their individual pain thresholds.

Examining the genetic codes, the researchers compared the results with unrelated individuals and found nine genes than could be accounted for one’s unique level of pain sensitivity. Chemical changes in these genes were believed to set an individual’s pain sensitivity much like a ‘dimmer switch.’ 

The study’s result is believed to extend further as King College Genetic Professor Tim Specter believed that the dimmer switch could be reset in various ways to make an individual feel less pain.


  • Chronic Pain:Symptoms, Diagnosis, & Treatment. NIH Medline Plus. Volume 6. Number 1.  Spring 2011 Issue: Page 5-6. Accessed May 21, 2014.

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