Some people are just better at withstanding pain than others and while this has been a mystery for some time, a new study suggests that genes may have something to do with tolerance for pain.
In a new study to be presented at the American Academy of Neurology's annual meeting in Philadelphia on April 30, researchers followed more than 2,700 individuals who take prescription opioids to treat chronic pain. The researchers asked the participants to rate their pain on a scale of zero to ten and divided them into three groups based on their pain scores excluding those with zero scores.
Those whose pain scores were anywhere between one and three were classified to have low pain perception and they make up 9 percent of the remaining participants. Forty-six percent of the participants who had scores of four to six, on the other hand, were classified to have moderate pain perception. Forty-five percent had pain scores between seven and 10 which classified them to have high pain perception.
The researchers also evaluated the genes of the participants and observed that the DRD1 gene was more prevalent in subjects with low pain perception. The researchers observed that the DRD1 gene was 33 percent more common in those whose pain scores were between one and three than in those who belong to the high-pain group.
The COMT and OPRK genes, on the other hand, were more prevalent in those who belong to the moderate-pain group. The COMT genes were 25 percent more prevalent in the participants who scored between four and six than in those who belong to the high-pain group. The OPRK genes, on the other hand were 19 percent more common in the moderate-pain group than in those who have high pain perception. The DRD2 gene was likewise 25 percent more common in those who belong to the high pain perception group than in those who belong to the moderate pain group.
Study researcher Tobore Onojjighofia, from the pain management company Proove Bioscience said that the findings of the study offer an objective way of understanding pain and why people have varying pain tolerance levels. Onojjighofia also said that the results of the study could provide helpful insights to doctors that would help them better understand their patients' tolerance of pain.
"Finding genes that maybe play a role in pain perception could provide a target for developing new therapies and help physicians better understand their patients' perceptions of pain," Onojjighofia said.