STUDY OBJECTIVE: To explore individual and social factors that could predict health care utilisation and medication among people with chronic pain in an unselected population. DESIGN: A mailed survey with questions about pain and mental symptoms, disability, self care action, visits to health care providers, and medication. SETTING: General populations in two Swedish primary health care (PHC) districts. Medical care was given in a state health system. PARTICIPANTS: A random sample (from the population register) of 15% of the population aged 25-74 (n = 1806). MAIN RESULTS: Among people reporting chronic pain 45.7% (compared with 29.8 of non-chronic pain persons, p < 0.05) consulted a physician and 7.2% (compared with 1.2%, p < 0.05) a physiotherapist during three months. Primary health care was the most frequent care provider. High pain intensity, aging, depression, ethnicity, and socioeconomic level had the greatest impact on physician consultations. Alternative care, used by 5.9%, was associated with high pain intensity and self care. Use of self care was influenced by high pain intensity, regular physical activity, and ethnicity. Alternative care and self care did not imply lower use of conventional health care. Women reporting chronic pain consumed more analgesics and sedatives than corresponding men. Besides female gender, high pain intensity, insomnia, physician consultation, social network, and self care action helped to explain medication with analgesics. Use of herbal remedies and ointments correlated to self care action, visit to an alternative therapist, high pain intensity, and socioeconomic level. CONCLUSIONS: The presence of chronic pain has an impressive impact on primary health care and medication. Various therapeutic actions are common and are partly overlapping. The use of health care among people with chronic pain depends above all on pain perception and intensity of pain but is also affected by ethnicity, age, socioeconomic level, and depressive symptoms. Among people with chronic pain use of analgesics is common in contrast with other types of pain relief (acupuncture, physiotherapy) suitable for treating chronic pain symptoms.
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