Chronic pain in primary care. German figures from 1991 and 2006

Frießem, Christine H.; Willweber-Strumpf, Anne; Zenz, Michael W.
January 2009
BMC Public Health;2009, Vol. 9 Issue 1, p299
Academic Journal
Background: Until now only limited research has been done on the prevalence of chronic pain in primary care. The aim of this investigation was to study the health care utilisation of patients suffering from pain. How many patients visit an outpatient clinic because of the symptom of pain? These data were compared with data from a similar study in 1991, to investigate whether improvements had been achieved. Methods: A total of 1201 consecutive patients visiting outpatient clinics were surveyed in six practices in the western part of Germany on randomly selected days by means of questionnaires. Topics were the point prevalence of pain and the period prevalence of chronic pain, its characteristics and its impact on daily life, as well as data on previous therapies for pain. A retrospective comparison was made with the data from a similar study with same design surveying 900 patients that took place in five practices during 1991. Results: In 2006, pain was the main reason for consulting a doctor in 42.5% of all patients (1991: 50.3%). Of all respondents, 62% suffered from pain on the particular day of the consultation, and 40% reported that they had been suffering from pain for more than six months (1991: 36.4%). As many as 88.3% of patients with chronic pain reported a negative impact on their daily life due to this pain (1991: 68%), and 88.1% reported impairment of their working life because of chronic pain (1991: 59.1%). Conclusion: Pain, and chronic pain in particular, is a central problem in primary care. Over the last 15 years, the number of patients suffering from chronic pain has not decreased. In nearly half of all cases, pain is still the reason for health care utilisation in outpatient clinics. Pain represents a major primary health care problem with enormous impact on public health. Improvements can only be achieved by improving the quality of health care at the primary care level.


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