Assessing treatment and monitoring of musculoskeletal conditions using opioid versus nonopioid therapy

Derek P.R. Pierce, Brett Pierce, Chin I. Cheng, Juliette Perzhinsky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


The purpose of this study is to examine the treatment of noncancer musculoskeletal pain in different clinical settings by assessing patient demographics, pain diagnoses, opioid analgesic monitoring, and alternative treatments. Data was collected in a retrospective chart review involving 300 randomly selected charts with an active musculoskeletal diagnosis based on the 10th revision of the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems codes. The population consisted of primary care outpatient clinic and emergency department encounters during the timeframe of January 1, 2016 to March 31, 2016 in a predominantly rural community in Michigan. Variables included prescription medications, musculoskeletal conditions, and prescription drug monitoring modalities. Statistical analysis was accomplished using means, standard deviations, proportions, 2-sample proportional tests, multivariable logistic regression, and multinomial regression models. Opioid prescribing was observed in 64% of outpatient and 68.9% of emergency department encounters. Back pain was the most common problem with 61.9% patients prescribed opioids having at least 1 diagnosis of back pain. Patients on opioids were older (mean age 58) than patients taking nonopioids (mean age 50). For every year of increasing age, there is a 3.1% increase in the odds of an opioid being prescribed (odds ratio 1.03, confidence interval 1.012–1.049, P = .001). Documentation was extremely low with only 15.2%, 1.5%, and 1.5% of patient charts prescribed opioids demonstrating documentation of urine drug screens, pain agreements, and review of a state prescription drug monitoring program, respectively. Despite drug monitoring recommendations, low rates of monitoring were observed. Back pain was the largest contributing pain location and had higher opioid use compared to other sites. Many patients had additional pain medications being concurrently prescribed with opioids suggesting that musculoskeletal pain is not often controlled by a single medication type. Reported alcohol abuse, active tobacco use, and illicit substance use can serve as predictors when assessing patients for pain management options. The use of alternative measures and integrative treatment modalities (which saw low utilization in this study) should be implemented as either primary or supplementary therapy as a way to reduce the pharmacologic burden on the patient.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere15128
JournalMedicine (United States)
Issue number15
StatePublished - Apr 1 2019


  • musculoskeletal conditions
  • nonopioids
  • opioid monitoring
  • opioids


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