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Rheumatology (Oxford). 2007 Jul;46(7):1168-70. Epub 2007 May 7.

Chronic musculoskeletal pain rarely presents in a single body site: results from a UK population study.

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Centre for Health Sciences, Barts and The London, Queen Mary School of Medicine and Dentistry, 2 Newark St, London, E1 2AT, UK.



To investigate the frequency and health impact of chronic multi-site musculoskeletal pain, in a representative UK sample.


Population postal questionnaire survey, using 16 general practices in the southeast of England, nationally representative urban/rural, ethnic and socioeconomic mix. A random selection of 4049 registered patients, aged 18 or over, were sent a questionnaire. The main outcome measures were chronic pain location, identified using a pain drawing; distress, pain intensity and disability as measured by the GHQ12 and the Chronic Pain Grade.


A total of 2445 patients (60%) responded to the survey (44% male, mean age 52 yrs); 45% had chronic musculoskeletal pain. Of those with chronic pain, three quarters had pain in multiple sites (two or more sites). Variables significantly predicting this were: age under 55, [odds ratio (OR) 0.5, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.4, 0.6]; psychological distress (OR 1.8, CI at 95% 1.4, 2.2) and high pain intensity (OR 5.2, CI at 95% 4.1, 6.7). Only 33% of multi-site pain distributions conformed to the American College of Rheumatology definition of chronic widespread pain.


Multi-site chronic pain is more common than single-site chronic pain and is commonly associated with other problems. Indiscriminate targeting of research and care for chronic musculoskeletal pain on single sites may often be inappropriate.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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