Musculoskeletal Disorders are Top Reason for Seeking Medical Care


Persons in the United States report musculoskeletal conditions-including arthritis, back pain, osteoporosis, and injuries-more than any other health condition, according to the US Bone and Joint Decade.


Persons in the United States report musculoskeletal conditions-including arthritis, back pain, osteoporosis, and injuries-more than any other health condition, according to the US Bone and Joint Decade (USBJD). Although musculoskeletal conditions rarely cause death, they are a major cause of pain, disability, and reduced quality of life.

These facts were reported earlier this year in The Burden of Musculoskeletal Diseases in the United States (BMUS), a publication produced for USBJD by experts in rheumatology, orthopedic surgery, physical medicine and rehabilitation, and other musculoskeletal care specialties. The goals of reporting these data are to stimulate increased investment in research to provide better understanding of the underlying mechanisms of musculoskeletal conditions and their response to treatment and to develop novel preventive and therapeutic approaches to mitigate their impact.

In BMUS, an objective scientific research design was used to measure the incidence and prevalence of musculoskeletal conditions and to project trends. Other key facts reported include the following:

• More than 30% of Americans have a musculoskeletal condition that requires medical attention.

• One in 2 adults reported a chronic musculoskeletal condition in 2005. The rate is twice that of reported chronic circulatory or respiratory conditions.

• In 2004, back pain accounted for more than 53 million health care visits; arthritis accounted for more than 44 million ambulatory care visits and 1 million hospitalizations; and musculoskeletal injuries accounted for more than 57 million health care visits-60% of injury treatment visits.

• One in 2 women and 1 in 4 men older than 50 years will have an osteoporosis-related fracture in his or her remaining lifetime.

• Less frequently, millions of children and adults have spinal deformities, musculoskeletal congenital conditions, and cancers of bone and connective tissue that reduce quality of life and longevity.

• Musculoskeletal disorders and diseases are the leading cause of disability in the United States.

• About 15 million adults, or 7% of the US population, report having difficulty in performing routine activities of daily living because of a musculoskeletal condition; close to half are aged 45 to 64 years.

• Musculoskeletal disorders occur more frequently as persons age. In developed countries, they account for more that half of chronic conditions in persons older than 50 years.

• The annual direct and indirect costs of bone and joint health in the United States were $849 billion, or 7.7% of the gross domestic product, in the years 2002 to 2004.

• The baby boomer generation of persons aged 45 to 64 years accounts for an increasingly greater proportion of total musculoskeletal disease treatment cost and lost wages, a trend that will continue for the next several decades.

• The burden of musculoskeletal conditions is expected to escalate in the next 10 to 20 years because of the aging population and sedentary lifestyles, but research currently accounts for less than 2% of the NIH budget.

For more information on the BMUS report, visit the Web site at A hard copy version may be purchased for $50 or a PDF version of each chapter may be downloaded directly from the Web site, along with an executive summary, highlights, and trends. For more information on the USBJD, visit the Web site at Or, contact the organization at United States Bone and Joint Decade, NFP (USBJD), 6300 North River Road, Rosemont, IL 60018; telephone: 847-384-4010; fax: 847-823-0536.

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