Prevalence and comparative troublesomeness by age of musculoskeletal pain in different body locations

Fam Pract. 2007 Sep;24(4):308-16. doi: 10.1093/fampra/cmm027. Epub 2007 Jun 29.


Background: Chronic pain has large health care costs and a major impact on the health of those affected. Few studies have also considered the severity of pain in different parts of the body across all age groups.

Objectives: To measure the prevalence and troublesomeness of musculoskeletal pain in different body locations and age groups, in a consistent manner, without using location specific health outcome measures.

Methods: A cross-sectional postal survey of 4049 adults registered with 16 MRC General Practice Research Framework practices. Frequency of chronic pain overall and troublesome pain by location and age was calculated. Logistic regression was undertaken to explore the relationship between chronic pain and demographic factors.

Results: We received 2504 replies; response rate 60%. The prevalence of chronic pain was 41%. The prevalence of chronic pain rose from 23% in 18-24 year olds reaching a peak of 50% in 55-64 year olds. Troublesome pain over the last 4 weeks was commonest in the lower back (25%), neck (18%), knee (17%) and shoulder (17%). Troublesome wrist, elbow, shoulder, neck and lower back pain were most prevalent in the 45- to 64-year-age groups. Troublesome hip/thigh, knee and ankle/foot pain were most prevalent in those aged 75 or more.

Conclusions: Great efforts have been made to develop and test treatments for low back pain. Our findings suggest that the overall prevalence of troublesome neck, knee and shoulder pain approaches that of troublesome low back pain and that similar efforts may be required to improve the management these pains.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Chronic Disease
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Musculoskeletal System / pathology*
  • Pain / epidemiology*
  • United Kingdom / epidemiology