• analgesia;
  • environment;
  • epigenetics;
  • genetic association studies;
  • genetics;
  • inter-individual variability;
  • pain;
  • SNP

Pain severity ratings and the analgesic dosing requirements of patients with apparently similar pain conditions may differ considerably between individuals. Contributing factors include those of genetic and environmental origin with epigenetic mechanisms that enable dynamic gene–environment interaction, more recently implicated in pain modulation. Insight into genetic factors underpinning inter-patient variability in pain sensitivity has come from rodent heritability studies as well as familial aggregation and twin studies in humans. Indeed, more than 350 candidate pain genes have been identified as potentially contributing to heritable differences in pain sensitivity. A large number of genetic association studies conducted in patients with a variety of clinical pain types or in humans exposed to experimentally induced pain stimuli in the laboratory setting, have examined the impact of single-nucleotide polymorphisms in various target genes on pain sensitivity and/or analgesic dosing requirements. However, the findings of such studies have generally failed to replicate or have been only partially replicated by independent investigators. Deficiencies in study conduct including use of small sample size, inappropriate statistical methods and inadequate attention to the possibility that between-study differences in environmental factors may alter pain phenotypes through epigenetic mechanisms, have been identified as being significant.