Musculoskeletal chronic pain in general practice: studies of health care utilisation in comparison with pain prevalence

H. Ingemar Andersson, Göran Ejlertsson, Ido Leden, Bengt Scherstén

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60 Citations (Scopus)


OBJECTIVE: To study the relations between population prevalence of chronic pain and pain-related diagnoses (musculoskeletal and headaches) in primary health care (PHC) and to examine longitudinal variations in these diagnoses. DESIGN: A population-based mailed survey to catch prevalence data and continuous computerised diagnosis registration in PHC. SETTING: General population in a well-defined Swedish PHC district. SUBJECTS: A random sample of 15% of the population aged 25-74, n = 1101. Annual visitors to district physicians at the health centre. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Rates of pain-related diagnoses in PHC in relation to population prevalence of chronic pain. Comparisons of the number of individuals (annual visiting rates) with pain-related diagnoses 1987-1996. RESULTS: Population pain prevalence and pain-related diagnoses in PHC corresponded as regards the magnitude and distribution of chronic pain by age and partly by pain location. Compared to low-back and widespread pain, neck-shoulder pain and headaches were less frequent in PHC in relation to reported prevalence. From 1987 to 1996 we found an increasing number of individuals seeking primary care with pain-related diagnoses. The increase was mainly assigned to the groups of fibrositis/myalgia and headache. CONCLUSION: Pain-related diagnoses in PHC reflect partly the occurrence of self-reported chronic pain symptoms in the population. The observed increase in visits with pain-related diagnoses in the last 10 years is due to an increased number of individuals with soft-tissue rheumatism and headaches. Future studies will have to elucidate whether these findings are due to an increase in morbidity or changes in care-seeking and social conditions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)87-92
Number of pages5
JournalScandinavian Journal of Primary Health Care
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1999

Swedish Standard Keywords

  • General Practice (30224)
  • Medical and Health Sciences (3)


  • chronic pain
  • primary care
  • visits


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