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Twin Study Suggests Genetics Play Key Role in Neck Pain

Genetic influence is stronger in women than in men and decreases with age

FRIDAY, May 5 (HealthDay News) -- Genes play a major role in the development of neck pain, but the genetic influence tends to fade with age, according to the results of a large, population-based twin study published in the May issue of the journal Rheumatology.

Rene Fejer, of the University of Southern Denmark in Odense, and colleagues collected data on lifetime prevalence of neck pain using a 20-page questionnaire that was sent to twins listed in the Danish Twin Registry. In all, 33,794 usable responses were gathered. Twin similarity was assessed by calculating the probandwise concordance rates, zygosity-specific odds ratios and tetrachoric correlations. Genetic and environmental contributions of the liability to neck pain were estimated using biometric modeling.

The overall additive genetic component was 44 percent. The genetic influence was less robust in men than in women, with a heritability of 34 percent versus 52 percent. It also faded with age, decreasing to 10 percent in the oldest males in the study (those between 51 and 71 years of age) and to zero percent in the oldest females.

"Although neck pain is heritable, it is not known how genes specifically influence the presence of neck pain," the authors write. "However, as genes play a lesser role with increasing age, efforts should be made to minimize any documented environmental risk factors that may cause or aggravate neck pain (e.g. physical and psychosocial risk factors)."

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