- An estimated 3.5 million Australians (15.3% of the population) had arthritis in 2014-15.
- The two most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. In 2014-15, more than half 58.9% of those with arthritis had osteoarthritis, equivalent to more than 2 million people. Rheumatoid arthritis affected 11.5% of arthritis sufferers, equivalent to more than 405,000 people.
- Arthritis more commonly affects females than males, and is also more common among older Australians.
After rising between 2001 and 2004-05 (14.9%), the arthritis prevalence rate then eased back to its 2001 level by 2014-15 (13.9%).
- Osteoporosis affected an estimated 801,800 people (3.5% of Australians) in 2014-15.
- Women account for the majority of osteoporosis cases (80%) and the disease mostly affects people aged 55 years and over.
- The proportion of Australians with osteoporosis has increased over the last decade (up from 3.0% in 2004-05) but has remained relatively stable since 2007-08.
- In 2014-15, back pain affected an estimated 3.7 million people (16.2% of the population).
- Back pain begins to impact the population from the 15-24 years age group (15.5%) and rises through subsequent age groups before peaking in the 65-74 years group (27.2%).
What are the risk factors for musculoskeletal conditions?
Common risk factors for many musculoskeletal conditions include ageing, overweight or obesity which places pressure on joints, and a sedentary lifestyle.
People with musculoskeletal conditions often have other diseases and long-term health conditions as comorbidities, which is most likely due to similar risk factors as described above. Musculoskeletal conditions often contribute to obesity, as painful joints and/or disability may restrict physical activity.
- Osteoarthritis: Risk factors include ageing, overweight or obesity, joint injury or trauma, joint misalignment, and repetitive loading tasks (e.g. kneeling, squatting, heavy lifting).
- Rheumatoid arthritis: The exact cause of rheumatoid arthritis is unknown, although family history of the disease is thought to have a role. The condition is more common in women, with almost twice as many women affected than men.
- Osteoporosis: Risk factors include ageing, being female, menopause, significantly low body weight, poor calcium intake, smoking and vitamin D deficiency. The condition is up to four times more common in women than in men.
- Juvenile arthritis: The cause of juvenile arthritis and its risk factors are currently unknown. Most forms are believed to be autoimmune disorders.
- Back problems: Risk factors include issues with posture and injuries, as well as other diseases such as osteoarthritis, disc disease, osteoporosis, and some genetic conditions. Other factors that may increase the risk of developing back problems include age, physical fitness, smoking, overweight or obesity, and the type of work a person does.
Treatment or management of musculoskeletal conditions
Prevention and management principles are to control weight, keep fit and protect the joints in order to avoid or delay disease onset. Pain management also plays a large role in improving quality of life for many people with musculoskeletal conditions.
- Osteoarthritis: Joint replacement is a common treatment for osteoarthritis, and this is the predominant condition leading to hip and knee replacement surgery in Australia. Weight management is important in helping to control progression of the disease.
- Rheumatoid Arthritis: There is no known cure for rheumatoid arthritis, but evidence suggests that early pharmaceutical interventions can assist in reducing joint damage and improving health outcomes.
- Osteoporosis: Currently there is no known cure for osteoporosis. Adequate calcium intake, healthy vitamin D levels, physical activity and early pharmaceutical interventions can help to strengthen bones and prevent fractures for those with osteoporosis. Falls prevention is also important in preventing fractures and managing this condition.
- Juvenile arthritis: There is no known cure for juvenile arthritis, but evidence suggests that early detection, pain management and pharmaceutical interventions are important for improving health outcomes and maintaining normal growth.
- Back problems: Treatment of back pain varies according to the underlying cause and often spans across a variety of health care settings. Common treatments include pain management including through medication use, rehabilitation and allied health services, and in extreme cases, spinal surgery.
Programs and initiatives to address musculoskeletal conditions
Programs that support management and treatment of musculoskeletal conditions include:The Medicare Benefits Schedule, which provides subsidies for patient care and includes Medicare items for the planning and management of chronic and terminal conditions. Eligible patients can also be referred by a GP for up to five Medicare subsidised allied health services that are directly related to the treatment of their chronic condition, including musculoskeletal condition