Symptoms associated with inflammatory arthritis are common and persistent in the primary care population: results from the Joint Symptoms Survey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


  • Samantha Hider
  • Sara Muller
  • Toby Helliwell
  • James A Prior
  • Ian Scott
  • Sarah A Lawton
  • Irena Zwierska
  • Dirkjan van Schaardenburg
  • Annette van der Helm-van Mil
  • Christian D. Mallen

Colleges, School and Institutes

External organisations

  • Keele University


Objectives: To describe the prevalence of self-reported inflammatory joint symptoms, such as joint pain, stiffness and swelling, in UK primary care patients consulting for both musculoskeletal (MSK) and non-musculoskeletal (non-MSK) complaints. Methods: A joint symptoms questionnaire survey was sent to 10 161 individuals, of whom 5050 had consulted for MSK problems. These were matched by age, gender and general practice to non-MSK consulters. Participants provided data on relevant symptoms such as joint pain, stiffness and swelling. The prevalence of these symptoms, their severity and impact were compared between MSK and non-MSK consulters. Results: A total of 4549 adults responded to the survey (adjusted response 45.8%) of whom 52.3% consulted for a MSK problem. The mean (s.d.) age was 61.6 (14.8) years and 58.9% were female. Persistent (on at least half of the days in the last month) inflammatory symptoms were common even in non-MSK consulters, with 42% reporting joint pain, 36% reporting joint stiffness and 18% reporting joint swelling. This is in comparison with 62% reporting joint pain, 50% stiffness and 24% swelling among MSK consulters. Conclusions: Although symptoms such as persistent joint pain, swelling and stiffness are predictive of inflammatory arthritis, large numbers of people consulting primary care for non-MSK reasons report these symptoms when asked by questionnaire. This compounds the challenges of diagnosing inflammatory arthritis in a non-specialist setting where new approaches are needed to ensure accurate, early diagnosis, facilitating a treat-to-target approach.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2009–2014
Number of pages6
Issue number11
Early online date11 May 2019
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2019


  • inflammatory arthritis, joint pain, joint swelling, primary care