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Painful times: Over 76 million Americans report experiencing day-long pains

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Getting through a day can be tough enough when you're feeling well, but throw in any type of constant, nagging pain and even making it through a good day can be a difficult task.

The American Pain Association (APA) reports that 76 million people report having pain lasting more than 24 hours. Breaking down whom exactly is feeling that pain, the report adds 30 percent were aged 45 to 64; 25 percent were 20 to 44; and 21% were 65 and older.

The APA explains that there are two steps to feeling that pain with the first being biological involving the initial sensation that the pain is actually happening. The second step is the brain's perception of that pain. It is at that point, for each individual, that the brain makes the decision to either shrug off these sensations and move along with the day or give in to the pain, stop everything and focus on that pain.

"Pain is both a biochemical and neurological transmission of an unpleasant sensation and an emotional experience," Dr. Doris Cope, an anesthesiologist who leads the Pain Medicine Program at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, explains. "Chronic pain actually changes the way the spinal cord, nerves, and brain process unpleasant stimuli causing hyper-sensitization, but the brain and emotions can moderate or intensify the pain."

The American Academy of Neurology also recently conducted a study that suggests people's specific tolerance levels of these pains may be based on genetics. Researchers there zeroed in on four genes that they feel might help explain why some of us have an easier time dealing with day-to-day pains than others.

The study was based on interviews with more than 2,700 people who are currently on prescription painkillers called opioids for some kind of chronic pain. This group was asked to rate their pain on a scale from zero to 10. Only 9 percent classified their pain as low, while 46 percent said moderate and 45 percent claimed it was high.

The following genes were then evaluated in all the participants: OMT, DRD2, DRD1 and OPRK1. For those who reported low pain levels, the DRD1 gene was 33 percent more common and for those reporting high pain perception the DRD2 gene was 25 percent more common. For those who reported moderate pain levels the COMT (25 percent) and OPRK (19 percent) genes were more common.

"Chronic pain can affect every other part of life. 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," Dr. Tobore Onojjighofia, the study's author and a member of the American Academy of Neurology, said.

The authors of the American Academy of Neurology study will present these findings at their annual meeting in Philadelphia on April 30.

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