The aim of this paper is to assess whether patient-centred consultations are more effective than the usual style of consultations used by general practitioners with patients suffering from benign chronic musculoskeletal pain and fibromyalgia. It also seeks to evaluate the differential characteristics of these two clinical groups of symptoms. The study was designed as a cluster randomised and simple blind trial. Twenty general practitioners took part and 110 patients were recruited. Compared with patients who received the usual treatment from their family physician, those who received a patient-centred approach showed greater improvement after 1 year in terms of psychological distress (anxiety) and number of tender points, as well as showing positive trends in some important outcomes such as pain intensity. Significantly better results were observed in those patients suffering chronic pain than in those with fibromyalgia, particularly as regards associated symptoms, self-rated pain and physical mobility as measured by the Nottingham health profile.