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PLoS One. 2013 Apr 30;8(4):e60753. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0060753. Print 2013.

Prevalence of self-reported pain, joint complaints and knee or hip complaints in adults aged ≥ 40 years: a cross-sectional survey in Herne, Germany.

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  • 1Department of Geriatrics, University of Bochum, Marienhospital Herne, Herne, Germany.



Pain and musculoskeletal complaints are among the most common symptoms in the general population. Despite their epidemiological, clinical and health economic importance, prevalence data on pain and musculoskeletal complaints for Germany are scarce.


A cross-sectional survey of a random sample of citizens of Herne, Germany, aged ≥ 40 years was performed. A detailed self-complete postal questionnaire was used, followed by a short reminder questionnaire and telephone contacts for those not responding. The questionnaire contained 66 items, mainly addressing pain of any site, musculoskeletal complaints of any site and of knee and hip, pain intensities, the Western Ontario MacMaster Universities (WOMAC) index, medication, health care utilization, comorbidities, and quality of life.


The response rate was 57.8% (4,527 of 7,828 individuals). Survey participants were on average 1.3 years older, and the proportion of women among responders tended to be greater than in the population sample. There was no age difference between the population sample and 2,221 participants filling out the detailed questionnaire. The following standardized prevalences were assessed: current pain: 59.7%, pain within the past four weeks: 74.5%, current joint complaints: 49.3%, joint complaints within the past four weeks and twelve month: 62.8% and 67.4%, respectively, knee as the site predominantly affected: 30.9%, knee bilateral: 9.7%, hip: 15.2%, hip bilateral: 3.5%, knee and hip: 5.5%. Pain and musculoskeletal complaints were significantly more often reported by women. A typical relationship of pain and joint complaints to age could be found, i.e. increasing prevalences with increasing age categories, with a drop in the highest age groups. In general, pain and joint pain were associated with comorbidity and body mass index as well as quality of life.


Our data confirm findings of other recent national as well as European surveys. The high site specific prevalences of knee and hip complaints underline the necessity to further investigate characteristics and consequences of pain and symptomatic osteoarthritis of these joints in adults in Germany.

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