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The University of Southampton

Why do people in pain suffer in silence?

Published: 19 February 2003

New research by University of Southampton scientists suggests that shoulder, neck and arm pain is widespread in the community, but not many sufferers seek treatment from their family doctor.

A survey of 6,000 working age adults in the city found that almost half of them had experienced upper limb pain in the previous week. Dr Karen Walker-Bone and her team then examined 2,000 people complaining of pain and found conditions such as frozen shoulder and tennis elbow. Three hundred people were questioned 20 months after the original study. Again, many had not sought medical help for the pain.

Dr Walker-Bone said: "We were very surprised by the findings, especially how widespread upper limb pain seems to be and how few sufferers seek treatment. We in the medical profession have many ways of treating these conditions and must find out why so many people are not coming to us for our advice."

Around 25 per cent of people surveyed had consulted complementary practitioners such as chiropractors or osteopaths.

The research, financed by a £105,700 grant from the Colt Foundation with extra funding from the Arthritis Research Campaign and Health and Safety Executive, surveyed 10,000 working age adults at two GP practices in Southampton. People were asked about their occupation, hobbies and sport and whether they smoked or drank alcohol. Criteria and definitions established by the Health and Safety Executive in 1998 were used to establish symptoms of pain.

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Notes for editors

The University of Southampton is a leading UK teaching and research institution with a global reputation for leading-edge research and scholarship. The University, which celebrated its Golden Jubilee in 2002, has 20,000 students and over 4,500 staff and plays an important role in the City of Southampton. Its annual turnover is in the region of £235 million.

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