Characteristics of Non-Spine Musculoskeletal Ambulatory Care Visits in the United States, 2009-2016

Amos Song, Peter Kim, Gregory Ayers, Nitin Jain

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Background: Despite the enormous economic and societal impact of musculoskeletal disorders, detailed data on the patient demographics and visit characteristics of nonspine musculoskeletal ambulatory care are sparse. Such data are essential to inform policymakers on population health needs and to justify health care resource allocation. Objective: To determine the demographic, patient, and visit characteristics of adult musculoskeletal ambulatory clinic visits, with the exception of spine visits, in the United States. Design: Survey/registry. Setting: National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey (NAMCS), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 2009 to 2016. Patients: The NAMCS was designed to capture information regarding the provision and use of ambulatory medical care services in the United States. Nonfederally employed office-based physicians reported data for this survey from 2009 to 2016. Interventions: None. Main Outcome Measure(s): Average annual estimated number (in 100 000s), Average annual estimated rate of ambulatory care musculoskeletal visits per 100 U.S. adults. Results: During 2009 to 2016, the leading cause of musculoskeletal visits was knee symptoms (15.3 million annually from 2009 to 2010, 14.0 million annually from 2011 to 2012, 12.5 million annually from 2013 to 2014, and 12.4 million annually from 2015 to 2016). Musculoskeletal visits were most frequent in patients that were 45 to 64 years of age (40.4% to 43.6% of visits were for patients 45 to 64 years of age depending on body region). Orthopedic surgeons conducted more musculoskeletal visits than any other physician specialty for all body regions. Among body regions, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) studies were ordered most commonly for patients with shoulder (total visits in 100 000 ± standard error [SE] 47.00 ± 0.21; 12.5% of total visits for shoulders) and knee symptoms (61.85 ± 0.15; 11.4% of total visits for knees). Opioid and opioid analgesic combinations (9.2% to 14.8% of visits) were most commonly prescribed in visits related to hip complaints. Conclusions: Visits were most frequent for knee symptoms and in patients of working age groups, which likely affects work productivity. Orthopedic surgeons were the most common provider specialty. Opioid medications were prescribed most commonly for patients with hip symptoms, which may highlight an area for potential intervention given the ongoing opioid crisis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)443-452
Number of pages10
JournalPM and R
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
  • Rehabilitation
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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