AIMS: Musculoskeletal pain and disability is a modern epidemic and a major reason for seeking health care. The aim of this study is to determine absolute and relative rates of care seeking over 20 years for adults reporting musculoskeletal complaints. METHODS: Interview data on musculoskeletal pain reported during the past two weeks from the Danish National Cohort Study were merged with data from the Danish National Health Insurance Registry and the National Patient Registry containing information on consultations in the Danish primary and secondary care sector. Absolute and relative rates for all seeking of care with general practitioners, physiotherapists, chiropractors, outpatient hospital contacts and hospital admissions are reported for persons reporting no musculoskeletal pain and for persons reporting pain in the neck, shoulder, wrist/hands, mid back, low back, hips, knees and ankles/feet. RESULTS: Regardless of site, persons experiencing a musculoskeletal complaint had a statistically increased risk of consulting a general practitioner when compared with persons reporting no musculoskeletal complaint. For physiotherapists and chiropractors, only persons complaining of neck pain and back pain had an increased risk of seeking care. Regardless of pain site, except for shoulder pain, persons reporting musculoskeletal pain had a statistically significant increased risk of outpatient hospital consultations and hospital admissions. Few differences were found between pain sites in relation to any of the outcomes. CONCLUSIONS: Self-report of musculoskeletal pain reported within the past two weeks predicts a statistically significant long-term increase in general use of health care services in both the primary and the secondary health care sector.