Reference values and factors associated with musculoskeletal symptoms in healthy adolescents and adults

Jennifer N. Baldwin*, Marnee J. McKay, Niamh Moloney, Claire E. Hiller, Elizabeth J. Nightingale, Joshua Burns, 1000 Norms Project Consortium

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


Background Insufficient attention has been given to individuals who report musculoskeletal symptoms yet experience minimal disability. Objectives To examine musculoskeletal symptoms among healthy individuals, and compare demographic, psychological and physical factors between individuals with and without symptoms. Design Cross-sectional observational study. Method Data were from the 1000 Norms Project which recruited 1000 individuals aged 3–101 years. Participants were healthy by self-report and had no major physical disability. Musculoskeletal symptoms (ache/pain/discomfort, including single-site and multi-site symptoms) were assessed in adolescents (11–17y) and adults (18–101y) using the Extended Nordic Musculoskeletal Questionnaire (NMQ-E). To compare individuals with single-site, multi-site and no symptoms, body mass index, grip strength, 6-min walk, 30-s chair stand and timed up-and-down stairs (all participants), and mental health, sleep difficulties, self-efficacy and physical activity (adults), were collected. Results /findings: Socio-demographic characteristics were similar to the Australian population. Twelve-month period prevalence of all symptoms was 69–82%; point prevalence was 23–39%. Adults with single-site symptoms were more likely to be overweight/obese and had lower sit-to-stand and stair-climbing performance (p < 0.05). Adults with multi-site symptoms were more likely to be female and overweight/obese, had lower mental health, greater sleep difficulties and lower grip strength, 6-min walk and sit-to-stand performance (p < 0.05). Differences were only observed among 50–59, 60–69, 70–79 and 80–101 year-olds. Conclusions Normative reference data for the NMQ-E have been generated. Musculoskeletal symptoms are common among healthy individuals. In older adults, musculoskeletal symptoms are linked with overweight/obesity, lower mental health, sleep difficulties and lower physical performance, emphasising the importance of multi-dimensional assessments in musculoskeletal disorders.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)99-107
Number of pages9
JournalMusculoskeletal Science and Practice
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2017


  • musculoskeletal pain
  • prevalence
  • activities of daily living


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