Factors related to seeking health care among adolescents with musculoskeletal pain

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Musculoskeletal pain is common among adolescents, but little is known about the factors that affect seeking health care for the problem. We examined the care-seeking pattern among adolescents reporting musculoskeletal pain. The study consisted of adolescents aged 16 years from the 1986 Northern Finland Birth Cohort who responded to a mailed questionnaire in 2001 and reported musculoskeletal pain over the preceding 6 months (n = 5052). Logistic regression analyses were performed to assess whether enabling resources, need factors, personal health habits, and psychological problems were associated with seeking health care for musculoskeletal pain. Musculoskeletal pain during the preceding 6 months was reported by 68% of boys and 83% of girls in the study population. Only 16% of boys and 20% of girls reporting pain had sought medical care. Among both boys and girls, care-seeking was associated with being a member of a sports club (boys, odds ratio [OR] 2.1; girls, OR 1.5) and having one (boys, OR 2.1; girls, OR 1.8) or at least 2 (boys, OR 2.2; girls, OR 2.1) other health disorders. In addition, it was associated with a high physical activity level (OR 1.5) and low self-rated (OR 1.5) health among girls. Reporting pain in other anatomical areas decreased the likelihood of seeking care for pain among both genders. In conclusion, relatively few adolescents with musculoskeletal pain had consulted a health professional for the problem. Being physically active (trauma), participating in organized sport (accessibility of care), and having other health problems may explain why an adolescent seeks care for musculoskeletal pain.Relatively few adolescents consulted for musculoskeletal pain. Being physically active, participating in organized sport, and having other health problems appear to explain care-seeking.

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