The frequency and characteristics of chronic widespread pain in general practice: A case-control study

Journal: British Journal of General Practice. 2007 Feb;57(535):109-15.

Authors and affiliation: Rohrbeck J, Jordan K, Croft P. Primary Care Musculoskeletal Research Centre, Keele University, Keele, North Staffordshire, UK.

PMID: 17263927

Background: Chronic widespread pain is common in the community but is not often diagnosed in primary care. One explanation may be that widespread pain is presented and treated in primary care as multiple episodes of regional pain.

Aim: To determine whether patients who consult with multiple regional pain syndromes have characteristics consistent with chronic widespread pain.

Design of study: Case-control study.

Setting: One general practice in North Staffordshire, UK.

Method: Participants were 148 cases who consulted regularly with different musculoskeletal pains over 5 years, and 524 controls who had not consulted for musculoskeletal pain during the same period. A postal questionnaire survey and medical record review were undertaken.

Results: Cases with musculoskeletal pain reported more health problems and higher levels of fatigue than controls, and significantly worse general health and greater sleep disturbance (odds ratios 3.3. and 3.1, respectively). They generally reported more severe symptoms and consulted more frequently for a range of problems, but this was not explained by a general propensity to consult.

Conclusion: Patients who consult in primary care with multiple regional pain syndromes have similar characteristics to those associated with chronic widespread pain and Fibromyalgia. Recognizing the need for general approaches to pain management, rather than treating each syndrome as a regional problem of pain, may improve the outcome in such patients.

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