Pain after car accidents can be increased by genetics

Posted on in Car Accidents

Genetic makeup may affect how intensely a person experiences pain. According to two new studies that examine the effects of genetics on pain sensation, this is true for those injured in car accidents, as well as other painful or stressful events.

The recent studies examined data involving 948 adults injured in car accidents. Both right after the accident and as long as six weeks after it, the genetic makeup of the studies' participants had an impact on the intensity of the pain each person experienced.

The pain may be excruciating, despite not showing up on a test or X-ray in some cases. Some patients may not receive the medical treatment they actually need, or receive adequate compensation for pain and suffering in a personal injury lawsuit because their account of their pain is not credited.

Pain does not solely stem from visible damage to tissue after an accident, but also from how the body reacts to the impact of a collision. There is a neurotransmitter known as dopamine that assists in regulating how the body transmits pain. Variations in genetic makeup connected with this neurotransmitter evidently lead some people to experience pain much more intensely than others.

There is also a hormonal system in the body, referred to as the hypothalamic-pituitary adrenal axis, which plays a role in directing how an individual's body may react to an event imposing stress on it. The researchers found that some people with a genetic difference in that system could face a risk of moderate to severe pain in their neck as long after an accident as six weeks which was 20 percent higher than the risk others encountered.

Persistent pain may exist even if an MRI scan or X-ray does not show visible tissue damage. Pain may be "subjective," but it is very real -- it is what the injured individual feels and experiences. These findings could someday help all car accident victims receive the compensation they deserve, rather than a shortage based on inadequate medical testing.

Source:, "Pain Level After Car Crash Could Depend on Your Genes, Studies Say," Maureen Salamon, Oct. 16, 2012

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