To investigate long-term sick leave among primary care patients with musculoskeletal disorders and the predictive value of health-status and sense-of-coherence measures. Patients aged 17 to 64 years who, during seven weeks, attended one of six primary care centers because of non-traumatic musculoskeletal pain and who completed the SF-36 health questionnaire and the sense of coherence (SOC) scale at baseline and after one year. Of 189 patients, 36 (19%) were sicklisted for at least three months before and/or after their visit; the most common diagnoses were non-specific soft-tissue or multiple joint, low back, and shoulder pain. The long-term sicklisted patients had significantly worse baseline SF-36 and SOC scores than the non-sicklisted patients; moderate improvement in the SF-36 bodily pain but no improvement in the physical functioning scores occurred. The duration of sick leave at baseline and the SF-36 bodily pain score were significant predictors of continuos one-year work disability. Long-term sick leave was common among primary care patients with musculoskeletal pain. The physical functioning and return-to-work outcomes after one year were poor. The SF-36 bodily pain scale might be helpful in identifying at risk patients.