Chronic pain may run in families, and several factors may play a role, according to a recent study.

In their study, published recently in the journal PAIN, Amanda L. Stone from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn, and Anna C. Wilson from Oregon Health & Science University, Portland, Ore, developed an “integrative conceptual model” to explore the possible explanations as to why this chronic pain risk may be present.

From their model, the researchers have identified five “plausible mechanisms” to explain the possible transmission of chronic pain risk within families, according to a media release from Wolters Kluwer Health: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.

1) Genetics. Children of parents with chronic pain might be at increased genetic risk for sensory as well as psychological components of pain. Research suggests that genetic factors may account for roughly half of the risk of chronic pain in adults.

2) Early Neurobiological Development. Having a parent with chronic pain may affect the features and functioning of the nervous system during critical periods in early development. For example, a baby’s development might be affected by the mother’s stress level or health behaviors during and after pregnancy.

3) Pain-Specific Social Learning. Children may learn “maladaptive pain behaviors” from their parents, who may act in ways that reinforce those behaviors. Catastrophizing—exaggerated responses and worries about pain—might be one key factor.

4) General Parenting and Health Habits. Chronic pain risk could be affected by parenting behaviors linked to adverse child outcomes—for example, permissive parenting or lack of consistency and warmth. The parents’ physical activity level and other health habits might also play a role.

5) Exposure to Stressful Environment. There may be adverse effects from growing up in stressful circumstances related to chronic pain—for example, financial problems or parents’ inability to perform daily tasks.

Moderators identified by the model include chronic pain in the other parent; the timing, course, and location of the parent’s pain; and the children’s characteristics, including their personal temperament, per the release.

“The outlined mechanisms, moderators, and vulnerabilities likely interact over time to influence the development of chronic pain and related outcomes in offspring of parents with chronic pain,” Stone and Wilson state in the release.

The journal PAIN is the official publication of the International Association for the Study of Pain.

[Source(s): Wolters Kluwer Health: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins, Newswise]