Researchers link multisite chronic pain with multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis

The global prevalence of chronic pain is estimated to be 30% and pain at multiple sites is associated with increasing healthcare costs, disability, and mortality. According to recent research published in Frontiers in Immunology, multisite chronic pain is linked to multiple sclerosis (MS) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Yidan Tang and colleagues from China have identified the relationship between chronic pain and autoimmune diseases (AIDs) using a two-sample Mendelian randomization method.

The researchers used genome-wide association study summary statistics to identify the causal link between chronic pain and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease, MS, RA, systemic lupus erythematosus, type 1 diabetes, and psoriasis. They observed that chronic pain is associated with increased risk for MS (P= 0.044) and RA (P=1.72) However, no significant association was found between multisite chronic pain and ALS (P = 0.150), celiac disease (P = 0.303), inflammatory bowel disease (P = 0.338), SLE (P = 0.144), diabetes (P = 0.627) or psoriasis (P = 0.644). Genetically predicted chronic widespread pain was not found to be linked to the risk of most types of AIDs.

Similarly, a 2019 study by Johnston and team reported a genetic correlation between multisite chronic pain and AIDs, psychiatric, and anthropometric traits (major depressive disorder asthma, and BMI). Based on the Mendelian randomization analyses, the impact of chronic pain on major depressive disorder was also recognized. Genetic variants were found to be responsible for chronic widespread pain.

Understanding the pathophysiological processes involved in developing chronic pain is necessary for managing chronic pain. Hence, studies signifying the physiology of chronic pain are recommended for developing novel treatment methods and managing chronic pain.


  1. Tang Y, Liu W, Kong W, Zhang S, Zhu T. Multisite Chronic Pain and the Risk of Autoimmune Diseases: A Mendelian Randomization Study. Frontiers in Immunology.;14:645.
  2. Johnston KJ, Adams MJ, Nicholl BI, Ward J, Strawbridge RJ, Ferguson A, McIntosh AM, Bailey ME, Smith DJ. Genome-wide association study of multisite chronic pain in UK Biobank. PLoS genetics. 2019 Jun 13;15(6):e1008164.