Arthritis and other musculoskeletal conditions are highly prevalent, affecting around 1 in 3 Australians. Although the conditions are rarely fatal, they are large contributors to illness, pain and disability. Compared with the general population, people with musculoskeletal conditions have higher rates of poor health, very high psychological distress and very severe pain.

These conditions are predominantly managed in primary health care settings by a range of health professionals. Treatment involves a combination of medication (for pain and inflammation); physiotherapy; self-management (such as diet and exercise); education on self-management and living with the condition; and referral to specialist care.

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 aged under 16. It may cause significant pain, disability and restrictions in school and other activities.

Gout is a form of inflammatory arthritis that develops when an excess of uric acid in the blood leads to deposits of uric acid crystals in one or more joints, causing inflammation.

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 updates the statistical information as new data become available. The Centre is funded by the Department of Health.