Musculoskeletal conditions: the elephant in the room?
Conditions of the bones, joints and muscles are a big problem in the UK; with over 17 million people living with a musculoskeletal condition, more people suffer with disability from musculoskeletal conditions than anything else.
Good health of bones, joints and muscles underpins living life well. Musculoskeletal conditions affect nearly everyone at some point in their life. They can cause pain, fatigue, restricted mobility and activities of daily living. They impact people’s lives, their work and even people’s other health conditions. Conditions of the bones, joints and muscles represent a significant cost to the individual, the economy and health and social care.
Acknowledging the problem
Everyone knows conditions like arthritis and back pain are common. But they are often misunderstood and ignored, like the figurative elephant in the room. The solution begins in acknowledging the problem. That’s why we need to shift our mindset and start planning and acting nationally, locally and individually for healthy bones, joints and muscles throughout life.
If we’re brave enough to tackle this big and growing problem, to champion lifelong good musculoskeletal health, there are large rewards! We see it day in day out here at goPhysio – poor MSK health has a huge impact on quality of life. If you invest in your MSK health, like in other areas of your health and wellbeing, you can get more out of life!
Why are MSK conditions the elephant in the room?
From our years of experience, there are many factors!
- Firstly, MSK conditions often occur gradually or creep up on you. It starts as a niggle or minor ache or pain, that you accept as part of life. You manage it yourself or make small adjustments in your life to compensate. Over time, your pain, stiffness and limited mobility gets worse, but the impact on your life has been so gradual, you don’t really notice until the effects are huge. Suddenly you’re not walking so far, aren’t exercising, avoiding certain activities and you take a look and are shocked what affect it’s had on you.
- MSK conditions aren’t immediately life threatening. Let’s face it, no matter how painful the condition is, there is nothing immediately at stake aside from quality of life. Subsequently, they aren’t always a high priority. However, this view is very short sighted – because over time, the impact of long standing MSK conditions can have a huge impact. Being less active and living with a painful MSK condition can cause many other issues as there will be knock on effects with mental health, cardiovascular health, maintaining a healthy weight and all the complexities that come with health.
- Culturally, we’ve been lead to believe the ‘wait and see’ approach is OK! How many times have you heard ‘rest’, ‘take painkillers’ ‘it’ll get better in time’? Funding cuts in the NHS has bread this culture! The truth is, if people had the support, education and correct personalised, professional advice from the early onset of an MSK condition, the issues could be reduced massively.
- Preventing MSK conditions and the solutions aren’t easy! Everyone now wants the easy option, the quick fix! But preventing and addressing MSK conditions need investment in time and effort. If you could take a magic pill that would solve it – great. But tackling these conditions takes time, there often isn’t a miracle miracle cure. e.g. If you have back pain, there is overwhelming evidence that exercise is the best management. But what do most G.P.s do if you go and see them with back pain? They’ll often advise painkillers and rest as the first step. Take osteoarthritis of the knee. Again, exercise is a highly effective treatment for this condition. But shockingly, many people would rather have a risky operation with no guarantee of a positive outcome than commit time and effort to doing regular, prescribed, specific exercises that would help them.
This week is officially Bone and Joint Week. Hopefully, getting the message out there will help filter out awareness of these conditions, the impact they have on so many people