Improving musculoskeletal health: Global issues

Girish M. Mody, Peter M. Brooks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

71 Citations (Scopus)


Musculoskeletal (MSK) disorders are among the leading reasons why patients consult a family or primary health practitioner, take time off work and become disabled. Many of the MSK disorders are more common in the elderly. Thus, as the proportion of the elderly increases all over the world, MSK disorders will make a greater contribution to the global burden of disease. Epidemiological studies have shown that the spectrum of MSK disorders in developing countries is similar to that seen in industrialised countries, but the burden of disease tends to be higher due to a delay in diagnosis or lack of access to adequate health-care facilities for effective treatment. Musculoskeletal pain is very common in the community while fibromyalgia is being recognised as part of a continuum of chronic widespread pain rather than a narrowly defined entity. This will allow research to improve our understanding of pain in a variety of diffuse pain syndromes. The availability of newer more effective therapies has resulted in efforts to initiate therapy at an earlier stage of diseases. The new criteria for rheumatoid arthritis, and the diagnosis of axial and peripheral involvement in spondyloarthritis, permit an earlier diagnosis without having to wait for radiological changes. One of the major health challenges is the global shortage of health workers, and based on current training of health workers and traditional models of care for service delivery, the global situation is unlikely to change in the near future. Thus, new models of care and strategies to train community health-care workers and primary health-care practitioners to detect and initiate the management of patients with MSK disorders at an earlier stage are required. There is also a need for prevention strategies with campaigns to educate and raise awareness among the entire population. Lifestyle interventions such as maintaining an ideal body weight to prevent obesity, regular exercises, avoidance of smoking and alcohol abuse, intake of a balanced diet and nutrients to include adequate calcium and vitamin D, modification of the work environment and avoidance of certain repetitive activities will prevent or ameliorate disorders such as osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout and MSK pain syndromes including low back pain and work-related pain syndromes. These prevention strategies also contribute to reducing the prevalence and outcome of diseases such as hypertension, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and respiratory diseases. Thus, prevention strategies require urgent attention globally.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)237-249
Number of pages13
JournalBest Practice & Research: Clinical Rheumatology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Arthritis
  • Developing countries
  • Health workers
  • Human resources
  • Musculoskeletal health
  • Osteoporosis
  • Prevention
  • Road traffic injuries

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