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To review qualitative, empirical studies exploring the influence of patients' and primary care practitioners' beliefs and expectations on the process of care for chronic musculoskeletal pain.A multidisciplinary review group searched 9 bibliographic databases. The group worked in pairs to screen titles and abstracts for relevance, to quality appraise relevant studies, to extract data from high-quality studies and to undertake a thematic analysis of this data.We identified 12,994 abstracts from our searches, of which we obtained 113 full-text articles as their abstracts contained insufficient information for us to decide on their eligibility. We appraised 22 qualitative studies, 15 of which were included in the analysis. Themes identified included; (1) beliefs about pain, (2) expectations of treatment, (3) trust, and (4) patient education. Both patients and practitioners wanted clear communication within the consultation and to be respected, but conflicts existed on nearly all other aspects of the consultation, some of which at present may seem insurmountable and may lead to difficulties in achieving positive outcomes.To tackle the challenges and conflicts identified within the review, change may have to occur, not just in individual patient and practitioner beliefs and behavior, but also at an organizational and system level, for example, changes in undergraduate and postgraduate education and changes in the organization and availability of health services.