Epigenetics of pain mediators

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Purpose of review

The field of epigenetics continues its influential rise as a means to better understand an organism's unique developmental identity over a lifespan. Whereas a genome is constant and unchanging, an epigenome is dynamic and alterable. Epigenetic changes are in response to innumerable internal and external influences including environmental changes such as diet, exercise, disease, toxins, and stress. Epigenetics is of particular interest in the medical research community both for the potential to cause disease and as a target for therapeutic interventions. This article provides a succinct explanation of the potential for epigenetics to influence the understanding of pain as well as a review of relevant research on the topic.

Recent findings

Studies on epigenetics and pain remain largely preclinical and investigate the theoretical ability of epigenetics to alter the nociceptive pathways both in the periphery and centrally. Significant evidence now exists for the ability of epigenetics to modify broadly categorized pain types, including inflammatory, neuropathic, visceral, and cancer related.


Both patients and providers recognize that novel medications for the treatment of both acute and chronic pain conditions are sorely needed. The understanding of epigenetics and its influence on nociception remains in relative infancy but early evidence is strong for potential therapeutic benefits to treat these conditions.

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