Prevalence of pain in general practice

Eur J Pain. 2002;6(5):375-85. doi: 10.1016/s1090-3801(02)00025-3.


Objective: The aim of this study is to estimate the prevalence and diagnostic pattern of pain at the primary care level during one year in a group practice. This practice serves the patients of a geographically defined area with approximately 14,000 inhabitants.

Design: Retrospective analysis of all computerised records of a GP group practice during one year, using a combined computerised search technique and manual check-up.

Setting: Tumba Primary Care District, Stockholm County, Sweden.

Subjects: All records of patients who visited Tumba primary care practice during one year.

Main outcome measures: Pain diagnoses, pain duration, analgesic use, pain category, and referrals.

Results: Little less than 30% of the patients, who were treated at a primary care practice, had some kind of medically defined pain problem, requiring the attention of a GP. A little less than half of these patients received a prescription for analgesic drugs. The pain diagnoses at a primary care level showed a predominance of musculoskeletal pain. The patients with pain were much older than population and total practice patients. Among the patients, 37% were in a state of acute pain, 37% suffered from chronic pain, 13% had an intermediate pain duration of 1-3 months, and 11% had a chronic intermittent pain condition (predominantly migraine).

Conclusions: Painful states of the musculoskeletal system constitute more than 2/3 of painful states in primary care. Viewed from a primary care perspective, pain has a great impact on GPs' day-to-day activities and on health economy in general.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Analgesics / therapeutic use
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pain / drug therapy
  • Pain / epidemiology*
  • Pain / physiopathology
  • Prevalence
  • Primary Health Care
  • Referral and Consultation / statistics & numerical data
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sex Factors
  • Sweden


  • Analgesics