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We conducted a large nationwide postal survey to estimate the prevalence of chronic pain with or without neuropathic characteristics in the French general population. A questionnaire aimed at identifying chronic pain (defined as daily pain for at least 3 months), evaluating its intensity, duration and body locations, was sent to a representative sample of 30,155 subjects. The DN4 questionnaire was used to identify neuropathic characteristics. Of the questionnaires, 24,497 (81.2%) were returned and 23,712 (96.8%) could be assessed. Seven thousand five hundred and twenty-two respondents reported chronic pain (prevalence = 31.7%; [95%CI: 31.1–32.3]) and 4709 said the pain intensity was moderate to severe (prevalence = 19.9%; [95%CI: 19.5–20.4]). Neuropathic characteristics were reported by 1631 respondents with chronic pain (prevalence = 6.9%; [95%CI: 6.6–7.2]), which was moderate to severe in 1209 (prevalence = 5.1% [95%CI: 4.8–5.4]). A higher prevalence of chronic pain with neuropathic characteristics was associated with middle age (50–64 years), manual professions and those living in rural areas. It was more frequently located in the lower limbs and its intensity and duration were higher in comparison with chronic pain without neuropathic characteristics. This large national population-based study indicates that a significant proportion of chronic pain patients report neuropathic characteristics. We identified distinctive socio-demographic profile and clinical features indicating that chronic pain with neuropathic characteristics is a specific health problem.