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01.12.2018 | Research article | Ausgabe 1/2018 Open Access

BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders 1/2018

Disability due to knee pain and somatising tendency in Japanese adults

BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders > Ausgabe 1/2018
Tomoko Fujii, Hiroyuki Oka, Junji Katsuhira, Juichi Tonosu, Satoshi Kasahara, Sakae Tanaka, Ko Matsudaira



Knee pain is common and related to knee osteoarthritis. However, there is a discrepancy between knee pain and radiographic osteoarthritis. In the general population, knee pain is associated with psychological and cognitive factors, which would be one explanation for the discrepancy. Limited evidence demonstrates that somatization is associated with knee pain. This study examined the association between disability due to knee pain and a high somatising tendency.


Japanese adults (aged 20–64 years) who had experienced knee pain in the past four weeks were included in this study (n = 14,695, 50% women). Data were extracted from a large internet survey. Somatising tendency was assessed using the Somatic Symptom Scale-8 (SSS-8). Disability due to knee pain was categorized into three levels: 1) knee pain without difficulty with activities of daily living (ADL), 2) knee pain with ADL difficulty but without requiring sick leave, and 3) knee pain requiring sick leave. The association between ≥ high somatising tendency (SSS-8 score ≥ 12) as well as very high somatising tendency (SSS-8 score ≥ 16) and disability due to knee pain was examined using logistic regression models adjusted for age, sex, body mass index, depressive symptoms, education level, regular exercise, chronicity of knee pain (≥3 months), osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and fibromyalgia.


Greater disability due to knee pain was associated with a higher odds ratio for ≥ high somatising tendency (adjusted odds ratio (aOR) = 2.36 [2.10–2.66] in group 2 vs. group 1, aOR = 3.23 [2.66–3.92] in group 3 vs. group 1). Stronger associations were found for a very high somatising tendency (aOR = 2.80 [2.42–3.23] in group 2 vs. group 1, aOR = 4.51 [3.64–5.58] in group 3 vs. group 1).


Somatization may play a role in disability due to knee pain in the general adult population with knee pain, similar to the role of somatization in low back pain.
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