Background. Pain is highly prevalent in nursing homes (NH) in several countries. Data about pain in Dutch NH's, where medical care is delivered by specifically trained NH-physicians, are not available. The aim of the present study is to determine prevalence, course, correlates, recognition and treatment of pain among Dutch NH-patients and to make a comparison with international data. Methods. The study-population consisted of 350 elderly NH-patients from 14 Dutch NH's. Pain (pain-subscale Nottingham Health Profile) and clinical characteristics (gender, age, cognition, depression, anxiety, sleeping problems, morbidity and functional status) were measured at baseline and at six months. Association of pain (baseline and six months) with clinical characteristics was assessed with chi-square and multiple logistic regression analyses. Results. Pain-prevalence was 68.0% (40.5% mild pain symptoms, 27.5% serious pain symptoms). 80% of the patients with pain at baseline still experienced pain at six months. Serious pain at baseline was significantly associated with depression (OR: 2.56; 95% CI: 1.34-4.89) and anxiety (OR 2.47; 95% CI: 1.22-4.99). Serious pain at six months was associated with pain at baseline (OR 18.55; 95% CI: 5.19-66.31) and depression at baseline (OR: 2.63; 95% CI:1.10-6.29). Recognition of pain by NH-physicians varied (35% to 69.7%) depending on measurement instrument and severity of pain. Analgesics were received by 64.5% (paracetamol (acetaminophen), NSAIDs, opioids). Paracetamol (acetaminophen) and opioids frequently were prescribed below daily defined doses. Conclusion. Pain occurred frequently also among Dutch NH-patients and was associated with depression and anxiety. Recognition and treatment by NH-physicians proved sub-optimal. Future studies should focus on interventions to improve recognition and treatment of pain. © 2007 Smalbrugge et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.