(CNN)Do you wince as you walk, or wake up with aches and pains? It could be down to your genes -- your Neanderthal genes, that is.
Many of us are part Neanderthal, with our genes carrying traces of past encounters between our early ancestors and the Stone Age hominins that populated Europe until around 40,000 years ago.
Now, researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany and Sweden's Karolinska Institutet think we can also attribute our pain thresholds to our Neanderthal DNA.
Researchers studied questionnaires on pain from more than 362,000 people in the United Kingdom.
The team then compared the responses with a person's gene profile, and determined that people who had the Neanderthal variant of an ion channel experienced pain more often than those who did not. This channel passes ions, like sodium or potassium, across the cell membrane, creating a current and allowing a cell to fire an electrical impulse, or a "pain signal."
The biggest factor for how much pain people report is their age. Carrying the Neanderthal variant of the ion channel, however, makes a person experience more pain -- similar to if they were eight years older, researchers explained in a paper published Thursday in the journal Current Biology.