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Second Greatest Cause of Disability - Musculoskeletal Conditions

Author: United States Bone and Joint Initiative

Published: 2012-12-20

Synopsis and Key Points:

Study on Global Burden of Disease reveals Musculoskeletal diseases are the second greatest cause of disability in all regions of the world.

Main Digest

Musculoskeletal diseases are the second greatest cause of disability in all regions of the world, according to a newly released study on the Global Burden of Disease published in The Lancet December 15, 2012. Back pain was found to cause the most disability worldwide, while osteoarthritis has shown the greatest increase in the last 20 years. The Bone and Joint Decade, an international initiative, has worked to raise awareness of the burden of musculoskeletal (MSK) conditions throughout the world since its launch in 2000.

Musculoskeletal Disorders - The term Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSD) covers any injury, damage or disorder of the joints or other tissues in the upper/lower limbs or the back. Musculoskeletal disorders, including arthritis, encompasses more than 100 diseases and conditions that affect joints, the surrounding tissues, and other connective tissues.

This new evidence further supports the Decade's campaign to make musculoskeletal conditions a public health priority. The Lancet publication of the Global Burden of Disease 2010 Study is available at

The study, the first comprehensive research into the worldwide impact of all diseases and risk factors, found that musculoskeletal (MSK) conditions such as arthritis and back pain affect more than 1.7 billion people worldwide, and have the 4th greatest impact on the overall health of the world population, considering both death and disability. This burden has increased by 45% over the last 20 years and will continue to do so unless action is taken. This landmark study of the global burden of all diseases provides indisputable evidence that musculoskeletal conditions are an enormous and emerging problem in all parts of the world and need to be given the same priority for policy and resources as other major conditions like cancer, mental health and cardiovascular disease.

"The release of the Global Burden of Disease Study reemphasizes that Musculoskeletal Conditions have been under recognized around the world for their impact on Society. Even in the developed world research funding for musculoskeletal conditions has not matched the burden of disease. This report should be the wake-up call to governments around the world, particularly in the developed world, to increase the funding for research and prevention activities to match the disease burden," said Stuart Weinstein , MD, co-chair, The Burden of Musculoskeletal Diseases in the United States (BMUS).

"Time and again, when the global burdens of disease are enumerated, musculoskeletal conditions rank high. Now we see that that rank is increasing. Although research funding reflects a long-term bias towards diseases with high mortality rates, the Global Burden of Disease project indicates that much of the growth in disease burdens has occurred for conditions that cause high disability rates. Redressing the funding disparity should become a high priority," added Edward Yelin , PhD, MCP, co-chair, BMUS.

The need to redress the allocation of resources is echoed by Professor Christopher Murray and the authors of the study who say that "health systems will need to address the needs of the rising numbers of individuals with a range of conditions that largely cause disability, not mortality."

The Global Burden of Disease 2010 Project is led by Professor Christopher Murray , Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, Seattle, WA, the World Health Organization and involves researchers from around the world.

"The burden of musculoskeletal reflects not only the number of people directly impacted, but also the cost of treatment and lost work income. And, in addition to the direct impact of musculoskeletal conditions, these conditions also can have significant impact on the development or management of other health conditions, such as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease, further amplifying the impact of these conditions. These aspects all need to be taken into account with healthcare reform in the U.S.," said Kimberly Templeton , MD, president, U.S. Bone and Joint Initiative.

The Bone and Joint Decade is calling for urgent action by the World Health Organization, the United Nations, and by national governments and for explicit plans to respond to the Global Burden of Disease 2010 results and the new ranking which shows that musculoskeletal conditions have an enormous and growing impact in all regions of the world.

The United States Bone and Joint Initiative (USBJI) is the U.S. National Action Network of the worldwide Bone and Joint Decade. The USBJI provides a forum for all stakeholders concerned with musculoskeletal health, raises the profile and priority of bone and joint health and disease prevention, and supports the advancement and expansion of musculoskeletal care and research through data dissemination, awareness-building programs, education initiatives, and advocacy. Data covering prevalence in the United States is published by the USBJI in The Burden of Musculoskeletal Diseases in the United States: Prevalence, Economic and Societal Cost (BMUS).

Key Facts about the prevalence of Musculoskeletal Conditions from the Global Burden of Disease Study:

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