The musculoskeletal diagnosis cohort: Examining pain and pain care among veterans

Joseph L. Goulet, Robert D. Kerns, Matthew Bair, William C. Becker, Penny Brennan, Diana J. Burgess, Constance M. Carroll, Steven Dobscha, Mary A. Driscoll, Brenda T. Fenton, Liana Fraenkel, Sally G. Haskell, Alicia A. Heapy, Diana M. Higgins, Rani A. Hoff, Ula Hwang, Amy C. Justice, John D. Piette, Patsi Sinnott, Laura WandnerJulie A. Womack, Cynthia A. Brandt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

106 Scopus citations


Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) are highly prevalent, painful, and costly disorders. The MSD Cohort was created to characterize variation in pain, comorbidities, treatment, and outcomes among patients with MSD receiving Veterans Health Administration care across demographic groups, geographic regions, and facilities. We searched electronic health records to identify patients treated in Veterans Health Administration who had ICD-9-CM codes for diagnoses including, but not limited to, joint, back, and neck disorders, and osteoarthritis. Cohort inclusion criteria were 2 or more outpatient visits occurring within 18 months of one another or one inpatient visit with an MSD diagnosis between 2000 and 2011. The first diagnosis is the index date. Pain intensity numeric rating scale (NRS) scores, comorbid medical and mental health diagnoses, pain-related treatments, and other characteristics were collected retrospectively and prospectively. The cohort included 5,237,763 patients; their mean age was 59, 6% were women, 15% identified as black, and 18% reported severe pain (NRS ≥ 7) on the index date. Nontraumatic joint disorder (27%), back disorder (25%), and osteoarthritis (21%) were the most common MSD diagnoses. Patients entering the cohort in recent years had more concurrent MSD diagnoses and higher NRS scores. The MSD Cohort is a rich resource for collaborative pain-relevant health service research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1696-1703
Number of pages8
Issue number8
StatePublished - Jun 8 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Cohort studies
  • Epidemiology
  • Mental health comorbidity
  • Musculoskeletal disorders
  • Pain
  • Veterans

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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