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About arthritis and musculoskeletal conditions

Musculoskeletal conditions are the most common chronic conditions in Australia, affecting almost one-third of the population. Musculoskeletal conditions are defined as conditions of the bones, muscles and their attachments such as joints.  

Common musculoskeletal conditions

Osteoarthritis

A degenerative joint condition affecting the weight-bearing joints such as the hips, knees and ankles as well as the hands and spine. In the initial stages pain occurs in the joints during and after activity, but as the condition progresses pain may be experienced from minimal movement or during rest.

Rheumatoid arthritis 

An auto-immune disease causing chronic inflammation of the joints. It most commonly affects the hand joints and can lead to deformities of the hands.

Osteoporosis

A condition whereby there is a progressive loss of bone density and decrease in the strength of the skeleton with a resultant risk of fracture.

Back problems  

Back pain and problems can be attributed to numerous factors including muscle strain or the displacement of an intervertebral disc. These may be caused by underlying illness or injury.

Key numbers

Data from the 2007–08 National Health Survey suggest that:

  • 3.1 million Australians are affected by some type of arthritis
    • 1.6 million are affected by osteoarthritis
    • 428,000 are affected by rheumatoid arthritis 
  • 1.9 million Australians are affected by some form of back problem

These estimates are based on self-report of doctor-diagnosed conditions.

Burden of musculoskeletal conditions

Musculoskeletal conditions are linked to much pain and disability. They were the fourth leading contributor to direct health expenditure in 2004-05 ($4.0 billion), following cardiovascular diseases ($5.9 billion), oral health ($5.3 billion) and mental disorder ($4.1 billion).

Limitations of the data

Estimating the prevalence of osteoporosis in a population can be difficult because it lacks overt physical symptoms. The diagnosis of osteoporosis tends to occur after an untoward event, such as sustaining minimal trauma fracture. Even after such events, some cases of osteoporosis go undiagnosed or treated. The NHS suggests that 692,000 Australians have doctor-diagnosed osteoporosis. This number, however, is certainly an underestimate.

AIHW Arthritis and musculoskeletal conditions publications

AIHW Arthritis and musculoskeletal conditions publications

The National Centre for Monitoring Arthritis and Musculoskeletal Conditions

The National Centre for Monitoring Arthritis and Musculoskeletal Conditions (the Centre) was established at the AIHW in 2005 to undertake surveillance and monitoring of arthritis and other musculoskeletal conditions in Australia. The Centre is a source of statistical information about various types of arthritis and musculoskeletal conditions and their associated problems in Australia. The Centre is funded by the Department of Health and Ageing.

Contact the National Centre for Monitoring Arthritis and Musculoskeletal Conditions

Tel: 02 6244 1000

Email: .