Background: We sought to describe sex differences in the prevalence of painful musculoskeletal conditions in men and women Veterans after deployment in Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan) and Operation Iraqi Freedom (Iraq) (OEF-OIF). Methods: This is an observational study using Veterans Affairs (VA) administrative and clinical databases of OEF-OIF Veterans who had enrolled in and used VA care. The prevalence of back problems, musculoskeletal conditions, and joint disorders was determined at years 1 through 7 after deployment for female and male Veterans using ICD-9 code groupings for these conditions. Results: Female Veterans were younger (mean age 29 vs. 30, P<0.0001), more likely to be African American (26% vs. 13%, P<0.0001), and less likely to be married (34% vs. 47%, P<0.0001). For both female and male Veterans, the prevalence of painful musculoskeletal conditions increased each year after deployment. After adjustment for significant demographic differences, women were more likely than men to have back problems [year 1 odds ratio (OR) 1.06 (1.01, 1.11)], musculoskeletal problems [year 1 OR 1.32 (1.24, 1.40)], and joint problems [year 1 OR 1.36 (1.21, 1.53)] and the odds of having these conditions increased each year for women compared with men in years 1 to 7 after deployment. Discussion: To provide quality care to female Veterans, the VA must understand the impact of deployment on women's health. Our findings provide an important picture of the increasing prevalence of musculoskeletal conditions in the female Veteran population and highlight the importance of the VA targeting treatment programs that focus on issues of particular importance to women with musculoskeletal pain.
- musculoskeletal pain
- women's health