Apart from carpal tunnel syndrome, there are no population based studies of the epidemiology of compressive neuropathies. To provide this information, new presentations of compressive neuropathies among patients registered with 253 general practices in the UK General Practice Research Database with 1.83 million patient years at risk in 2000 were analysed. The study revealed that in 2000 the annual age standardised rates per 100 000 of new presentations in primary care were: carpal tunnel syndrome, men 87.8/women 192.8; Morton's metatarsalgia, men 50.2/women 87.5; ulnar neuropathy, men 25.2/women 18.9; meralgia paraesthetica, men 10.7/women 13.2; and radial neuropathy, men 2.97/women 1.42. New presentations were most frequent at ages 55-64 years except for carpal tunnel syndrome, which was most frequent in women aged 45-54 years, and radial nerve palsy, which was most frequent in men aged 75-84 years. In 2000, operative treatment was undertaken for 31% of new presentations of carpal tunnel syndrome, 3% of Morton's metatarsalgia, and 30% of ulnar neuropathy.