Objective: To investigate the incidence and prevalence of shoulder complaints in the general population.
Method: A systematic review of the literature was conducted. Medline, Embase, and Cinahl were searched for relevant studies.
Results: Eighteen studies on prevalence and one study on incidence met the inclusion criteria. Incidence figures of 0.9-2.5% were found for different age groups. Prevalence figures differed from 6.9 to 26% for point prevalence, 18.6-31%, for 1-month prevalence, 4.7-46.7% for 1-year prevalence and 6.7-66.7% for lifetime prevalence. Prevalence rates decreased when the case definition was restricted, in terms of duration of pain or the presence of limited movements, and increased when the location for pain was enlarged.
Conclusion: The reported prevalence figures on shoulder complaints diverged strongly. Health professionals and policymakers who estimate the amount of medical care needed and related costs should be aware of the variations in prevalence rate and the underlying reasons for these differences.