An estimated 15–50% of the population experiences pain at any given time, at great personal and societal cost. Pain is the most common reason patients seek medical attention, and there is a high degree of individual variability in reporting the incidence and severity of symptoms. Research suggests that pain sensitivity and risk for chronic pain are complex heritable traits of polygenic origin. Animal studies and candidate gene testing in humans have provided some progress in understanding the heritability of pain, but the application of the genome-wide association methodology offers a new tool for further elucidating the genetic contributions to normal pain responding and pain in clinical populations. Although the determination of the genetics of pain is still in its infancy, it is clear that a number of genes play a critical role in determining pain sensitivity or susceptibility to chronic pain. This review presents an update of the most recent findings that associate genetic variation with variability in pain and an overview of the candidate genes with the highest translational potential.
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