OBJECTIVE. To examine reasons for and extent of health
services utilization in patients seeking care for neck and
shoulder pain in a population based primary care setting.
METHODS. Patients seeking care for neck and shoulder pain
wereidentified from medical records of 6526 patients visiting
6primary care centers during a 2 week period. The extent of
and reasons for health care utilization over the subsequent 12
month period were examined.
RESULTS. Of 440 patients who consulted primary health
care physicians for neck and shoulder pain, one-half had one
or more additional episodes of care due to musculoskeletal
(MSK) pain over the subsequent 12 months. One-quarter
had additional episodes of care for pain in other sites than
in the neck and shoulder. The total number of visits was twice
the annual average for patients visiting the health centers,
MSK symptoms accounting for half the visits. Twenty percent
of the women and 7% of the men visited primary care
physicians 10 times or more per year.
CONCLUSION. The pattern of reasons for visits for MSK pain
suggests that in about one-quarter of patients visiting primary
care physician for neck and shoulder pain, the local
symptomatology is part of multisite MSK symptoms, resulting
in frequent utilization of health services.