OBJECTIVES: Despite the significant biopsychosocial impact of chronic pain on the health and quality of life of an individual,
as well as on healthcare utilisation, no published data are available on the prevalence of chronic pain in the South African
primary healthcare context. The aim of this study was to investigate the prevalence and intensity of chronic pain in patients
attending primary healthcare facilities in south-west Tshwane.
DESIGN SETTING: A prospective, cross-sectional study was carried out in four primary healthcare clinics, situated in
SUBJECTS: The study was conducted on 1 066 adult patients, aged 18 years or older, over a nine-week period between
October and December 2010.
OUTCOME MEASURES: The prevalence and intensity of chronic pain was determined.
RESULTS: Chronic pain prevalence was 41%. The confidence interval (CI) was 37.2-45.6. Chronic pain was most frequently
experienced as lower back pain [prevalence 30.83% (CI: 19.56-42.09)] and joint pains [prevalence 23.48% (CI: 7.58-39.38)].
Chronic pain was significantly more prevalent with advancing age (p-value = 0.0014), in women than in men (p-value =
0.019), and in widowed and divorced patients, than in married and single patients (p-value = 0.0062). Patients with chronic
pain reported their pain intensity over the previous month as maximum pain intensity (mean: 7.69 ± 0.99), minimum pain
intensity (mean 2.54 ± 0.89), and average pain intensity (mean 4.57 ± 0.62).
CONCLUSION: Chronic pain was highly prevalent in patients who attended primary healthcare facilities in south-west Tshwane.
The intensity of pain was high in a significant proportion of patients.