Chronic forearm pain presents as a transient and indistinct pain site in a community setting: results from a UK population survey

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Abstract

Objectives

To investigate the prevalence of chronic forearm pain in a non-occupational community setting over a 2-year period.

Method

A longitudinal community-based postal questionnaire survey conducted in the south-eastern quadrant of England.

Results

We received 2493/4172 (60%) responses at baseline and we followed up 429 of these 2 years later: 252 responded (59%). Forearm pain prevalence was 4% at baseline and 5% at follow-up. Over 95% of those with forearm pain had pain in other areas [odds ratio 1.5 (95% confidence interval 1.3–1.7)] and it was most commonly associated with elbow and wrist pain. Seventy-six per cent of those with forearm pain at baseline recovered. At follow-up, 78% of those with chronic forearm pain had new-onset forearm pain.

Conclusions

Persistent forearm pain (pain for over 2 years) was rare and the capacity for recovery was good (76%). Isolated forearm pain as a diagnostic category is of little utility. Treating and managing forearm pain in a site-specific manner is unlikely to be successful owing to its strong association with pain in other areas. In the community, forearm pain laterality was not evident; our findings suggest that forearm pain in the workplace is influenced by different factors to those in a community setting.

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