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Genetics of chronic musculoskeletal pain 

Genetics of chronic musculoskeletal pain
Genetics of chronic musculoskeletal pain
Oxford Textbook of Rheumatology (4 ed.)

Kate L. Holliday

, Wendy Thomson

, John McBeth

, and Nisha Nair

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Chronic pain disorders are prevalent and a large burden on health care resources. Around 10% of the general population report chronic widespread pain, which is the defining feature of fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia is a poorly understood idiopathic disorder which is also characterized by widespread tenderness and commonly occurs with comorbid mood disorders, fatigue, sleep disturbance, and cognitive dysfunction. A role for genetics in chronic pain disorders has been identified by twin studies, with heritability estimates of around 50%. Susceptibility genes for chronic pain are likely to be involved in pain processing or the psychological component of these disorders. A number of genes have been implicated in influencing how pain is perceived due to mutations causing monogenic pain disorders or an insensitivity to pain from birth. The role of common variation, however, is less well known. The findings from human candidate gene studies of musculoskeletal pain to date are discussed. However, the scope of these studies has been relatively limited in comparison to other complex conditions. Identifying susceptibility loci will help to determine the biological mechanisms involved and potentially new therapeutic targets; however, this is a challenging research area due to the subjective nature of pain and heterogeneity in the phenotype. Using more quantitative phenotypes such as experimental pain measures may prove to be a more fruitful strategy to identify susceptibility loci. Findings from these studies and other potential approaches are discussed.

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