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How big is the burden on general practice?

Data on attendance at general practice with any musculoskeletal pain disorders.

Although many sufferers, especially the elderly, do not seek medical care for the musculoskeletal pains, data on general practice attendees give a pointer not only of the occurrence of ‘significant’ pains but also of the workload on general practice. A number of general practices in the UK keep a continual record of the reason for consultation of all patients who attend. Many of these individuals attend more than once for the same condition. Further for musculoskeletal disorders an individual patient may attend during a single year, for example, with more than one individual disorder.

From these data as a good indicator of the level of musculoskeletal problems in the community the tables below present information on the percentages and estimated numbers in the adult UK population who visit their general practitioner at least once during a year with any musculoskeletal complaint. These rates have been consistent over the past 6 years.

How many adults consult their GP with musculoskeletal problems each year?

Group  Percentage
UK estimate
Males 17% 4.1
Females 23% 6.0
All 20% 10.1


Not surprisingly the proportion increases with age.

The influence of age on annual GP consultation rates for musculoskeletal problems.

UK estimate
15 - 24  8%  0.3
25 - 44  13%  1.1
45 - 64  20%  1.5
65 - 74  27%  0.6
75+  30%  0.5
15 - 24  11%  0.4
25 - 44  17%  1.5
45 - 64  28%  2.1
65 - 74  35%  0.9
75+  36%  1.0



  1. Royal College of General Practioners - Birmingham Research Unit. Annual prevalence report 2006.
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