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Chronic Pain Is Often a Family Affair, Study Finds

MONDAY, Nov. 19 (HealthDay News) -- The teenage children of people who suffer chronic pain are at higher risk of suffering from such pain themselves, a new study finds.

The study tracked more than 5,300 teens (aged 13 to 18) in Norway and their parents and found that teens were more likely to have chronic nonspecific pain and chronic multisite pain if one or both of their parents had chronic pain.

The risk of chronic pain in teens was greater if both parents had chronic pain, according to the study published online Nov. 19 in the journal Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

Adjusting for socioeconomic and psychosocial factors did not change the findings, but different types of family structure did have an effect, said Dr. Gry Hoftun, of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, and colleagues. For example, among teens who lived primarily with their mothers, those whose mothers had chronic pain were at increased risk for chronic pain. No such association was found among teens who lived primarily with their fathers.

Shared environmental factors could play an important role in chronic pain that occurs among adults and their children, the researchers concluded.

One expert in the United States said the study raises some questions.

"The findings are not surprising, but causal factors -- what is the basis for this relationship -- remain unanswered," said Dr. Bradley Flansbaum, an internist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. "We cannot account for every exposure, particularly social influences, and the impact genetics and environment play in the outcome are difficult to parse," he noted.

"This should not distract the take-home point -- mainly, cause aside, pain clusters in families," Flansbaum said. He believes that the finding could make it easier to spot those people who suffer from chronic pain and improve treatment.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has more about chronic pain.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCES: Bradley Flansbaum, M.D., internist, Lenox Hill Hospital, New York City; Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, news release, Nov. 19, 2012

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