Why patients do not seek medical care for painful osteoarthritis |

Recent research in the British Medical Journal questions why patients do not seek medical attention for painful, arthritic joints from a general practitioner (GP).

Some patients spend years with painful osteoarthritis without consulting for it, including times when they are experiencing persistent severe pain and disability. Why do patients seek or not seek medical care? Researchers sought to investigate the relative importance of what patients think their doctors will tell them about their joint pain.

Results 863 people age 50 and over responded to self-complete questionnaire (55% female; mean age 70 years, range: 58–93).

The most important determinants of the patient’s decision to consult the GP for joint pain were:

  • the extent to which pain disrupted everyday life 31%
  • what the patient thought the doctor would say to them – the possibility that nothing could be done and that the patient would just have to live with it 24%

Anticipating that the GP will regard joint pain as ‘part of the normal aging process that one just has to accept’ is a strong disincentive to seeking help, potentially outweighing other aspects of quality of care.

Alongside the recognition and management of disrupted function, an important goal of each primary care consultation for osteoarthritis should be to avoid imparting or reinforcing this perception.1

For more on this subject see the article on Prolotherapy, Ross Hauser, MD cites why patients do not seek surgical consults and do not see doctors because they do not want painkiller prescriptions.

1. Coxon D, Frisher M, Jinks C, Jordan K, Paskins Z, Peat G. The relative importance of perceived doctor’s attitude on the decision to consult for symptomatic osteoarthritis: a choice-based conjoint analysis study. BMJ Open. 2015 Oct 26;5(10):e009625. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2015-009625.