Musculoskeletal Conditions – the second greatest cause of disability

New data on the burden of musculoskeletal diseases has emerged from Global Burden of Disease 2010 Study. The study shows musculoskeletal diseases to be the second greatest cause of disability in all regions of the world. Back pain is the condition causing most disability across the globe with osteoarthritis showing the greatest increase in the last 20 years.

Global Burden of Disease 2010 Study is published in the Lancet with the data available at

Since its launch in 2000, the Bone and Joint Decade has worked to gain recognition for the burden of musculoskeletal conditions throughout the world. We will be using this new evidence of the enormous and growing burden of musculoskeletal conditions to further underpin our campaign to make musculoskeletal conditions a public health priority.


  • Musculoskeletal conditions include joint diseases such as osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis; back and neck pain; osteoporosis and fragility fractures; soft tissue rheumatism; injuries due to sports and in the workplace; and trauma commonly related to road traffic accidents
  • They cause pain, physical disability and loss of personal and economic independence
  • They affect millions of people of all ages in all cultures and in all countries
    • Current estimates of people affected worldwide (Lancet 15 December 2012)
      • Back pain     632.045 million
      • Neck pain     332.049 million
      • OA knee        250.785 million
      • Other musculoskeletal conditions          560.978 million
  • They are the second greatest cause of disability, as measured by years lived with disability (YLDs) worldwide and across most regions of the world (Lancet 15 December 2012)
    • As a group musculoskeletal disorders cause 21·3% of all years lived with disability (YLDs)  (this is second only to mental and behavioural disorders which account for 22.7% of YLDs)
    • The main contributors are low back pain (83.1 million YLDs), neck pain (33.6 million YLDs), osteoarthritis (17.1 million YLDs) and the other musculoskeletal category. Osteoarthritis of the knee accounts for 83% of the osteoarthritis total.
    • The leading cause of disability worldwide are low back pain contributing 10.7% of total YLDs (major depression contributes 8.1%).
  • They have the fourth greatest impact on the health of the world population, considering both death and disability (DALYs) (Lancet 15 December 2012)
    • Musculoskeletal disorders account 6.8% DALYs
    • Low back pain accounts for nearly one half, neck pain one fifth, and osteoarthritis about 10%.
    • Ranking of major causes of death and disability (% DALYs)
      • Cardiovascular and circulatory diseases 11.8%
      • All neoplasms 7.6%
      • Mental and behavioural disorders 7.4%
      • Musculoskeletal disorders 6.8%
  • Disability due to musculoskeletal disorders is estimated to have increased by 45% from 1990 – 2010 (Lancet) compared to a 33% average across all other disease areas.  Osteoarthritis is the fastest increasing major health condition.  This relates to ageing of the population, increased obesity and lack of physical activity.
  • Disability due to musculoskeletal conditions can be effectively prevented by currently available interventions, such as accident prevention, modern treatment of arthritis and injuries, and by rehabilitation.
  • The growing burden can be controlled if priority and resources are given to ensure access to these interventions.

The following press release has been made available to the major lay and medical media and it is the intention of the Bone and Joint Decade to organise a call for action using the data from the study.


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