Send to

Choose Destination
See comment in PubMed Commons below
Rheumatology (Oxford). 2005 Jul;44(7):890-5. Epub 2005 Mar 22.

Is musculoskeletal pain more common now than 40 years ago?: Two population-based cross-sectional studies.

Author information

  • 1ARC Epidemiology Unit, Medical School, University of Manchester, Oxford Road, Manchester M13 9PT, UK.



To test the hypothesis that the prevalence of specific musculoskeletal pain symptoms has increased over time in the northwest region of England. To meet this objective we have examined the difference in the prevalence of low back, shoulder and widespread pain between the 1950s and today using historical data collected by the Arthritis Research Campaign (arc).


Two cross-sectional surveys conducted over 40 yr apart in the northwest region of England. The status of two regional pain sites and widespread pain was determined using interview and questionnaire responses, for the earlier and later studies respectively. Subjects were classified positively if they reported low back pain, shoulder pain or widespread pain on the day of the survey. Rates were standardized to the Greater Manchester population.


There were large differences in the prevalence of musculoskeletal pain between the two surveys. For all three symptoms examined prevalence increased from 2- to 4-fold between the two surveys. In both surveys low back pain was more common in women. Shoulder and widespread pain was less prevalent in women than in men in the earlier survey but by the time of the later survey women reported more pain at these sites.


The prevalence of musculoskeletal pain is much higher than that reported over 40 yr ago. The change in prevalence is unlikely to be entirely due to the study design; other possible explanations such as the increased reporting or awareness of these symptoms is discussed.

Comment in

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Full text links

    Icon for Silverchair Information Systems
    Loading ...
    Support Center