Chronic musculoskeletal pain influenced by genetics

Published on August 18, 2014 at 5:15 PM · No Comments

By Lucy Piper, Senior medwireNews Reporter

Children of parents with chronic musculoskeletal pain (CMP) are at increased risk of also suffering from such pain as adults, a large family-linkage study shows.

The association was particularly strong if both parents had CMP, and was not restricted to CMP that interfered with work ability and leisure activities, note the researchers, led by Ragnhild Lier (Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway).

“Thus, one may speculate that the occurrence of CMP in the adult offspring is strongly influenced by genetic factors”, they comment in BMC Public Health.

The researchers found a high prevalence of CMP among 11,248 parents participating in the HUNT study in 1995–97, with 56.7% of mothers and 51.4% of fathers reporting muscle or joint pain or stiffness in the past year that lasted for at least 3 consecutive months. The rate of activity-interfering CMP was somewhat lower, at 51.4% and 45.5%, respectively.

The prevalence of CMP was also high among these parent’s sons (39.3%) and daughters (47.3%) who were assessed in HUNT3 in 2006–08 when aged an average of 41 and 43 years, respectively. The corresponding rates for activity-interfering CMP were 32.2% and 25.5%.

“The high prevalence of CMP in both parents and offspring, also for activity interfering CMP, suggests that not all cases are clinically relevant”, Lier and co-workers note.

They report that daughters had a 40% increased risk of having CMP if their mother had CMP and a 20% increased risk if their father had CMP, while for sons the risk was increased 40% and 30%, respectively. The risk was increased 60% for both daughters and sons if both parents had CMP. This was after adjusting for parental age, body mass index, psychological wellbeing and number of years spent in education.

Further analysis showed that CMP in the offspring was as likely to occur in those aged younger than 40 years as it was in older individuals, and the risk was similar irrespective of whether it was the mother or father who had CMP.

The researchers conclude that, although they were unable to determine the relative contribution of genetic and environmental factors, their findings “clearly demonstrate family clustering that is in agreement with a heritable component of CMP.”

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