Background: Factors influencing work-related musculoskeletal disorders might differ in developing and developed countries. Aims: To assess the prevalence and determinants of musculoskeletal pain in four occupational populations in Sri Lanka. Methods: As part of the international Cultural and Psychosocial Influences on Disability study, samples of postal workers, sewing machinists, nurses and computer operators were interviewed about pain at each of six anatomical sites in the past month, and about possible physical and psychosocial risk factors. Associations with prevalent pain were assessed by binomial regression. Results: Analysis was based on 852 participants (86% response rate). Overall, the lower back was the most common site of pain, with 1-month prevalence ranging from 12% in computer operators to 30% in nurses. Postal workers had the highest prevalence of shoulder pain (23%), but pain in the wrist/hand was relatively uncommon in all four occupational groups (prevalence rates ranged from 8% to 9%). Low mood and tendency to somatize were consistently associated with pain at all six sites. After adjustment for psychosocial risk factors, there was a higher rate of low back pain in nurses and postal workers than in computer operators, a higher rate of shoulder pain in postal workers than in the other occupational populations, and a relatively low rate of knee pain in computer operators. Conclusions: Rates of regional pain, especially at the wrist/hand, were lower than have been reported in Western countries. As elsewhere, pain was strongly associated with low mood and somatizing tendency. Differences in patterns of pain by occupation may reflect differences in physical activities. © The Author 2012. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society of Occupational Medicine. All rights reserved.