Why arthritis and MSK need more attention now
Bones and Joints Musculoskeletal disorders such as arthritis are the greatest cause of disability in the UK and cost the country millions. We must join forces to focus on musculoskeletal health now.
"More people are at risk of developing musculoskeletal or mobility problems, than of dementia."
Mobility and dexterity are vital for us to maintain independent and healthy lives – but they depend on good musculoskeletal (MSK) health.
Perhaps because this is so obvious, it is often overlooked, despite the fact that MSK disorders are the greatest cause of disability in the UK have the third greatest impact on overall health.
Musculoskeletal health is linked to all health
MSK health forms the roots and trunk of a metaphorical tree. If the roots and trunk are not nourished and tended, the fruit and flowers, in the form of general health and independence, are compromised.
"As people live and work for longer, we need to focus more on musculoskeletal problems like arthritis."
We are bombarded with messages about the importance of physical activity in preventing conditions such as heart disease and diabetes, but without good musculoskeletal health, physical activity can be difficult or unachievable.
That's why, as people live and work for longer, we need to focus more on the research, treatment, and prevention of musculoskeletal problems such as arthritis.
There are now new and effective treatments for many musculoskeletal conditions and symptoms that can reduce their impact and enable patients to live fuller lives.
We now have targeted therapies for rheumatoid arthritis and spondyloarthritis, treatments to reduce the risk of fractures in people with osteoporosis, increasingly effective joint replacement surgery and a range of simple interventions that can reduce the need for surgery in osteoarthritis.
"Doctors are qualifying with too little skill in diagnosing and managing these conditions."
However, policymakers, while accepting that musculoskeletal health is an important area of concern, often say that nothing more can be done. At the same time, doctors typically leave medical school with too little skill in diagnosing and managing these conditions. This combination of problems means too little is being done to tackle musculoskeletal disorders such as arthritis.
Collaboration in the industry
Now the Arthritis and Musculoskeletal Alliance (ARMA) is working with NHS England and Public Health England to bring together health providers, professionals and patients to improve prevention and treatment of musculoskeletal conditions, and provide better services. Patients seeking help need access to medical professionals who know how to deal with their problems from the start and have the capabilities to manage these conditions.
"Musculoskeletal disorders caused the loss of nearly nine million working days in 2016."
Action on MSK health would also save money. Musculoskeletal disorders caused the loss of nearly nine million working days in 2016, and accounted for 43% of work-related illness. They are a major cause of disability and early retirement.
As the population ages and people live longer, the social and financial costs will grow.
We need more education, prevention, treatment, and research at a national, European and global level. Now is the time for medical professionals, charities, and patients to get together and pool our knowledge to achieve this.
The Arthritis and Musculoskeletal Alliance (ARMA) is the umbrella body for the arthritis and musculoskeletal community in the UK. Our mission is to transform the quality of life of people with musculoskeletal conditions. Our member organisations range from specialised support groups for rare diseases to major research charities and national professional bodies. Find out more at www.arma.uk.net
ESCAPE-pain is a rehabilitation programme for people with chronic joint pain, that integrates educational self-management and coping strategies with an exercise regimen individualised for each participant.