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Musculoskeletal Hits Top 10 in Primary Care Visits

Musculoskeletal Hits Top 10 in Primary Care Visits

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Musculoskeletal Makes Its Bones in Primary Care

Musculoskeletal disorders encompass rheumatologic diseases (rheumatoid arthritis [RA], osteoarthritis) and orthopedic conditions (back pain, sports injuries), so patients with these problems might be expected to pay more visits to rheumatologists and orthopedic surgeons than to other health care professionals.

In fact, patients with musculoskeletal problems most often visit primary care offices.

Of the total ambulatory care visits to physician offices and hospital outpatient and emergency departments for diseases of the musculoskeletal system and connective tissue in 2009-2010, 37% were to primary care offices, compared with 31% to surgical specialists and 16.5% to medical specialists.

Why? Perhaps because patients who have muscle, bone, and joint concerns often go to their primary care physician first. In many cases, the primary care physician can make the proper diagnosis and treat the problem. In others, the primary care physician makes an appropriate diagnosis and then refers the patient to a rheumatologist or orthopedic surgeon for treatment.

This article, the fifth in a series on “Top 10 Reasons Why Patients Come to Primary Care,” reports on visits for diseases of the musculoskeletal system and connective tissue.

See the pages that follow for key facts and figures about musculoskeletal disorders, perhaps a surprise as the fourth leading diagnostic category in primary care.

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