To identify the early diabetic musculoskeletal symptoms of previously undiagnosed diabetic subjects, a case-control study was carried out. The cases and controls were recruited from a population aged 55 years. Questions concerning the symptoms were asked before the 2-h oral glucose tolerance tests (OGTT). The results show that pain in the right hand was the most prominent symptom among the diabetic women. Pains in the left hand and the shoulders in the diabetic women and pains in the right knee and the right hip joint in the diabetic men tended to be more prevalent than the corresponding symptoms in the controls. The highest prevalence of most musculoskeletal pains occurred in the highest tertile of 2-h OGTT values among women. The conclusion is that the hand pain is closely associated with the development of diabetes and may give clues to an early diagnosis of diabetes in a middle-aged population.