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Costs of shoulder pain and resource use in primary health care: a cost-of-illness study in Sweden

Lena Virta1*, Pål Joranger2, Jens Ivar Brox3 and Rikard Eriksson2

Author Affiliations

1 Medical Faculty, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway

2 Department of Faculty of Health, Nutrition and Management, Faculty of Health Sciences, Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences, Postbox 4, St. Olavsplass, 0130 Oslo, Norway

3 Department of Orthopaedics, Oslo University Hospital, 0027 Oslo, Norway

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BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders 2012, 13:17  doi:10.1186/1471-2474-13-17

Published: 10 February 2012



Painful shoulders pose a substantial socioeconomic burden. A prospective cost-of-illness study was performed to assess the costs associated with healthcare use and loss of productivity in patients with shoulder pain in primary health care in Sweden.


The study was performed in western Sweden, in a region with 24 000 inhabitants. Data were collected during six months from electronic patient records at three primary healthcare centres in two municipalities. All patients between 20 and 64 years of age who presented with shoulder pain to a general practitioner or a physiotherapist were included. Diagnostic codes were used for selection, and the cases were manually controlled. The cost for sick leave was calculated according to the human capital approach. Sensitivity analysis was used to explore uncertainty in various factors used in the model.


204 (103 women) patients, mean age 48 (SD 11) years, were registered. Half of the cases were closed within six weeks, whereas 32 patients (16%) remained in the system for more than six months. A fifth of the patients were responsible for 91% of the total costs, and for 44% of the healthcare costs. The mean healthcare cost per patient was €326 (SD 389) during six months. Physiotherapy treatments accounted for 60%. The costs for sick leave contributed to 84% of the total costs. The mean annual total cost was €4139 per patient. Estimated costs for secondary care increased the total costs by one third.


The model applied in this study provides valuable information that can be used in cost evaluations. Costs for secondary care and particularly for sick leave have a major influence on total costs and interventions that can reduce long periods of sick leave are warranted.