Musculoskeletal conditions affect over 10 million people and are the leading cause of disability in England, according to the Global Burden of Disease project – an international study ranking the diseases and risk factors that cause death and disability.

For many years there has been a perception that arthritis and back pain are unavoidable and part of the ageing process and the focus has been on conventional treatments to alleviate pain and discomfort. However, increasingly we are seeing that unhealthy lifestyles contribute to the cause of musculoskeletal conditions, and an ageing population, rising obesity rates and reduced level of physical activity will only increase the prevalence of these conditions, and result in rising costs to the health and social care system.

Around 19% of men and 26% of women across different age groups in England are damaging their health through a lack of physical activity, costing an estimated £7.4 billion every year.  We need to focus our collaborative efforts on addressing the rising tide of musculoskeletal ill health and acting earlier to prevent, detect and treat musculoskeletal conditions with targeted public health interventions across the life course.

There has been some excellent progress made through collaboration between Public Health England, the third sector and government bodies collectively sharing good practice and pooling expertise. In September 2016 Arthritis Research UK funded two new posts to work with Public Health England and Arthritis and Musculoskeletal Alliance (ARMA) to step up the effort to influence policy and improve the MSK data to inform practice, evidence and research.

The partners have produced some key documents and tools to inform practice and support employers to raise awareness about how people of all ages can reduce the risks associated with developing musculoskeletal conditions and improve the health and wellbeing of individuals who may have an existing condition such as back pain, arthritis and problems with muscle’s, joints and bones.  Below are some resources you may find useful:

Musculoskeletal health in the workplace: a toolkit for employers

There is lots of information including research and policies on the Versus Arthritus website

More about the author:

Ginder Narle is the Musculoskeletal Policy Implementation Lead for Public Health England.

You can find out more about the work around MSK by PHE here