The present study uses data from a national, community-based survey to compare the social impact of and medical care use due to 4 musculoskeletal conditions: rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, lower back pain, and tendinitis. The study also compares the impacts experienced by persons with these conditions with those experienced by a sample of persons having a broader range of musculoskeletal conditions, and by an age-adjusted sample representing the entire U.S. population. Rheumatoid arthritis leads to the most frequent use of physician services; lower back pain results in the most hospitalizations and surgery. Rheumatoid arthritis also causes the most restriction in activity. We found that as a broad group, persons with musculoskeletal disease experience about the same amount of restriction in activity and use about the same amount of medical care as U.S. citizens as a whole. This study demonstrates that health planning on the basis of specific musculoskeletal conditions is necessary to serve the disparate needs of persons with particular, discrete conditions.