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Does Chronic Pain Run in Families?

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Persistent discomfort lasting 6-12 months or more, the general definition of chronic pain, may stem from an injury or stress placed on various bones, muscles, and joints. Family connections may also play a role. A relationship between chronic pain and members within the same family has been established by previous research. A study cited by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) suggests possible reasons for this connection.

Genetics and Chronic Pain

There’s plenty of evidence to suggest certain biological factors passed down through DNA can make someone more susceptible to experiencing ongoing pain from one condition or another. Another study suggests genetics may be linked to half of all chronic conditions.

Behavioral Influences

Two people can have the exact same genetic propensity for chronic pain and report very different degrees of discomfort. Part of the reason for this may be how parents or other family members react to pain in front of children. For instance, kids observing family members over-exaggerating symptoms may do the same thing when they become adults.

Lifestyle and Daily Habits

When children are brought up in a family setting where they’re not encouraged to watch what they eat and stay active, they may make lifestyle choices likely to weaken muscles and place added pressure on bones and joints. It’s not unusual for people within the same family to adopt similar lifestyle habits. If those habits aren’t healthy, multiple family members may develop underlying health conditions such as type 2 diabetes and weight issues that can contribute to chronic pain.

Exposure to Sources of Stress

Chronic pain can be influenced by how children learn to deal with things like daily stress. Individuals who grew up around parents or other family members who couldn’t handle stress well may not learn effective coping methods either. The same is true of children who grow up in a stressful environment. Being around regular sources of stress may lead to unhealthy coping habits such as overeating, a general lack of physical activity, and excessive alcohol consumption.

Just because chronic pain runs in your family doesn’t mean you’re destined to experience ongoing discomfort in your life. If you do, there are many beneficial pain management techniques that may either eliminate or minimize it. Chronic pain treatments can be as simple as applying ice or heat or as relaxing and stimulating as massage therapy and participating in water-based activities like swimming or water aerobics.