Reduce Your Risk of Orthopaedic and Musculoskeletal Conditions

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23 July 2019

Group of adults doing floor mat exercises

The number of people suffering from musculoskeletal problems such as chronic back pain, knee injuries and osteoarthritis, to name a few, is on the rise. Currently more prevalent than any other national health priority area in Australia with thirty percent of Australians reporting that they have arthritis and other musculoskeletal conditions. Here are some tips about reducing risks. But, a reminder to please refer to your treating health practitioner for your own special health management needs.

1 in 10 Australians aged 50+ have osteoporosis or osteopenia

The causes: While osteoporosis and osteopenia (low bone density) often occur due to ageing and menopause – which affects everyone and particularly women - medications for other conditions including arthritis, asthma, breast cancer and hyperthyroidism, can lead to low bone density. Some lifestyle factors can also contribute, such as smoking, excessive alcohol intake, a lack of calcium and vitamin D, and not being active.

How to reduce your risk: Thankfully, osteoporosis is preventable. According to Osteoporosis Australia, four major ways to keep the condition at bay are:

  • Getting enough calcium -1000mg/day for adults, increasing to 1300mg/day for women 50+ and men 70+
  • Having good vitamin D levels via sun exposure - a few minutes most days in summer and 2-3 hours a week in winter
  • Regular weight-bearing exercise (jogging, tennis, dancing) and resistance training (lifting weights), and
  • Not smoking and not drinking alcohol to excess.

More than 1 million people with arthritis report moderate to severe pain

The causes: There are more than 100 forms of arthritis and the causes of most of them are unknown. However, those with a family history are more at risk, as are people who smoke, don’t exercise regularly and have problems with their immune system.

How to reduce your risk: Since there aren’t direct causes, it’s not completely clear how to prevent arthritis but there are ways to delay onset and manage pain.

  • A healthy lifestyle - a balanced diet, regular exercise, not smoking, and limiting alcohol can reduce the risk for many chronic diseases, including arthritis and other musculoskeletal conditions.
  • Maintaining a healthy weight - being overweight or obese can increase the risk of developing osteoarthritis.
  • Regular exercise - it’s important for both physical and psychological benefits. The John Hopkins Arthritis Center in the US says, “Lack of physical activity is associated with increased muscle weakness, joint stiffness, reduced range of motion, fatigue, and general deconditioning.” According to Arthritis Australia, regular exercise is one of the most effective treatments for arthritis.

70-90% of people will experience an episode of lower back pain

The causes: Back pain linked to a specific cause accounts for about five percent of cases, meaning it’s hard to know what leads to most lower back pain. However, the most common reasons seem to be muscle or ligament strain or bulging discs.

How to reduce your risk: Being in good shape physically is one of the best preventions for back problems, as is being smart about how you use and move your body, especially since we now spend more time seated than ever before. Over 10 years, research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association revealed that total sitting time has increased by almost an hour a day among adults. Here’s how to ease the daily load on your back.

  • Build fitness and flexibility through low-impact exercise, such as walking and swimming, and core fitness that keeps your abdominal muscles strong.
  • Sit, stand and lift properly. Fifty percent of Australians are seated for most or all the time they’re at work, according to a report commissioned by Safe Work Australia. To protect your back, choose a chair with good lower back support, keep your knees and hips level and make sure you move at least every half an hour. For good posture, which can reduce the load on your back muscles, always stand upright, no slouching! And if you must lift heavy objects, keep your back straight and bend at your knees.

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