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Knee pain sensitivity in osteoarthritis patients linked to genetics

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People with knee osteoarthritis may experience different levels of knee pain depending on their genetics, a US study suggests.

Researchers at Penn State University focused on differences in the variability of knee pain and the level of pain following daily physical activity within individual osteoarthritis patients.

This was part of a larger study on the daily lives of couples in which one person has arthritis, explained Lynn Martire, professor of human development and family studies at Penn State.

“The biggest problem in arthritis is that a person becomes physically inactive because they are in pain, but if they don´t move, then it makes them hurt more,” she said. “As a supplement to the larger study, we collected genetic data from those who were willing to participate to determine if there were any associations with daily knee pain sensitivity.”

The researchers recruited 120 knee osteoarthritis patients who went through a 22-day assessment protocol in which they wore a device to measure daily physical activity and reported on their pain three times a day using a questionnaire. According to Martire, reporting more pain variability throughout the day reflects increased sensitivity to pain after physical activity.

The study, published in the Scandinavian Journal of Pain, provides preliminary evidence that patients with certain genetic variations experience more variability in their day-to-day pain and a greater increase in pain as a result of physical activity.

If these preliminary findings are confirmed in a larger study, it could lead to the development of tailored activity programmes based on a person´s genotype, Martire said.