What is one of the most common reasons for people of working age leaving the workforce and is also the leading cause of disability globally? If you guessed back pain, then you’d be right.
Back pain accounts for more than 40 percent of forced early retirements in Australia and is associated with poor quality of life, lower income and mental health issues. Back pain, along with osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis, fibromyalgia and gout are what are called musculoskeletal (MSK) conditions.
Often, chronic pain conditions affecting the musculoskeletal system have no cure. Musculoskeletal pain affects the muscles, bones and/or joints and are often but not always related to injury or old age – they can affect people from all walks of life and backgrounds. Painful MSK conditions include arthritis, back pain, neck pain, shoulder pain, foot pain and osteoporosis.
The most effective way to manage pain from MSK conditions is with multidisciplinary pain management and supported self-management. In a small number of cases, the condition may be improved with joint replacement surgery or the implantation of a spinal cord stimulator by a specially trained pain specialist.
We’re blogging about MSK conditions this week because we have partnered with Musculoskeletal Australia on the largest musculoskeletal health survey ever undertaken. A total of 3453 people participated in the survey with the final report, Making the Invisible Visible, released yesterday.
The survey provided a voice to many who live with a condition that is often difficult to describe to those who don’t experience it. The survey underscores the recent decision of the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare to expand the definition of pain to include MSK, recognising just how significant MSK is as a contributor to the overall burden of disease.
The impact of MSK conditions is significant. The survey shows:
MSK conditions have negatively impacted 93 percent of respondents.
66 percent said their condition impacted family and relationships.
65 percent reported financial stress due to their condition.
70 percent have had their condition for 6 years or more, and
49 percent saying they are affected by MSK pain seven days a week.
So, what needs to happen to better support people living with MSK conditions? The final report outlines six areas of action:
People need support so they can work.
People need affordable services and financial assistance to get the care they need.
People need support to practise self-care.
Consumer data should be used to advocate for better care.
Services should be more integrated.
There needs to be more understanding of what musculoskeletal conditions are and how they affect people.
These are certainly sensible areas for action. They echo what we and consumers have for years been calling for to address chronic pain and to improve the lives of the people it affects. This final report should be the straw on the camel’s back and adds to the already overwhelming evidence we have regarding the needs of people living with chronic pain. It’s now time for action.