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Musculoskeletal conditions are conditions of the bones, muscles and their attachments (e.g. joints and ligaments). They are the most common chronic conditions in Australia and predominantly managed in primary health care settings, a setting for which there are currently limited national data.

Common musculoskeletal conditions

Back pain and problems are caused by numerous factors including muscle strain or displacement of an intervertebral disc. These may result from an underlying illness or injury.

Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint condition affecting 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 is 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 is a condition where there is a progressive loss of bone density and decrease in the strength of the skeleton with a resultant risk of fracture.

Juvenile arthritis refers to the types of arthritis occurring in children under 16 years of age. It may cause significant pain, disability and restrictions in school and other activities.

graphic pie chart showing 28% PNG


of Australians have arthritis and other musculoskeletal conditions. That's around 6.1 million people.

graphic comparing prevalence of musculoskeletal diseases PNG


of Australians (3.0 million) are affected by back problems, followed by 8% with osteoarthritis (1.8 million), 3% with osteoporosis (728,000) and 2% with rheumatoid arthritis (445,000) according to 2011–12 self-reported estimates.

graphic comparing self-reported rate of arthritis between women and men PNG

2 million

women self-reported having arthritis compared to 1.3 million men in 2011–12. Osteoporosis was self-reported by 588,000 women and 137,000 men.

graphic showing how $5.7 billion is spent between musculoskeletal conditions PNG

$5.7 billion

was spent on Arthritis and other musculoskeletal conditions in 2008–09. Of this, $1,637 million was spent on osteoarthritis, $1,177 million on back problems, $355 million on rheumatoid arthritis and $305 million on osteoporosis.

Dash rise in total knee and hip replacements 2003-04 to 2012-13 PNG


rise in total knee replacements for osteoarthritis from 2003–04 to 2012–13. There was a 17% rise in total hip replacements over the same period.


2 in 10

People (20%) with arthritis and other musculoskeletal conditions self-reported fair or poor health, compared to 1 in 10 people (10%) without these conditions.

graphic showing international comparison of the burden of disease for back pain and ostearthritis PNG

According to the Global Burden of Disease estimates, low back pain is ranked first in Australasia (including Australia and New Zealand), compared to sixth in the world. Neck pain is ranked 10th compared to 21st in the world, and osteoarthritis is ranked 23rd compared to 38th in the world.

AIHW arthritis and other 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 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (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.

Contact the National Centre for Monitoring Arthritis and Musculoskeletal Conditions

Tel: 02 6244 1000

Email: .