Objective: This study assesses the prevalence of musculoskeletal (MSK) pain in patients attending primary care clinics in a medium-sized town in Malaysia and examines the interventions given for the symptoms and the level of the associated disabilities.
Method: This investigation comprises a cross-sectional descriptive study of all patients visiting two primary care clinics aged 18 years and above. Patients presenting with joint pain answered a questionnaire assessing demographic data, disabilities (measured by the Stanford HAQ-DI), and treatment options.
Results: Of 1,074 patients surveyed, 202 (18.8%) had MSK complaints. The mean age of those with MSK pain was 56.1 years. Incidence increased with age, reaching 78.8% of those over 48 years of age. The knee was the most common site of MSK pain (52.2%), with 20.3% requiring referral for specialist assessment. The median HAQ score was 0.375 and 89.6% of those surveyed had mild disability.
Conclusion: MSK pain is a common problem among patients visiting primary care clinics. The most common site of MSK pain was the knee. On formal assessment, the majority of these patients exhibited mild disability. A significant proportion of patients still required specialist referral. This finding would suggest a need for further training on the management of MSK disease at the primary care level to avoid over-burdening the secondary care services.