Number of Osteoarthritis cases increase as population ages

25 August 2020

According to a United Nations report published in 2017, there is a demographic transition occurring throughout the world. This phenomenon has been defined as population ageing, mainly due to improvements in survival rates and longer life spans, but also from a slight decline in fertility globally.

Number of Osteoarthritis cases increase as population ages

Between 1980 and 2017 the global population for those aged over 60 more than doubled, and it is expected to double again by 2050, accounting for up to 35% of a country's total population.1

As the average age of the global population continues to increase, it is wise for policymakers and health care providers to consider the changing needs of the patient and their families. One area of focus that has been gaining increased attention over the past few years is Osteoarthritis (OA), affecting 303 million people globally. Recent research shows that musculoskeletal disorders have a significant disease burden, with the highest ranking of years living with a disability (YLD) in 183 countries worldwide.2

In OA, there is a gradual degeneration of cartilage that leads to pain, swelling, and sometimes even fluid buildup around the joint. Although it can affect any joint, OA most commonly affects the knee, hands, hip, and spine.

Arthritis pain is caused by inflammation, and, or joint damage. Even with assertive treatment, patients may continue to experience arthritis pain and stiffness in muscles, ligaments, tendons, or the thin cushion between the joints called bursae. To this end, the Arthritis Foundation joined with the American College of Rheumatology to develop guidelines to help both doctors and patients understand and choose the right treatment to meet individual needs.3 Although not all guidelines “show strong evidence for benefit that clearly outweigh harm for almost all people with OA,” these options are the recommended first line approach to safe treatment:

  • "Educational, behavioral and psychosocial approaches:
    • Weight loss
    • Self-efficacy and self-management programs to help build skills like fitness and exercise goal setting, problem-solving and positive thinking

  • Mind-body and physical approaches:
    • Exercise: aerobic, strengthening, neuromuscular and aquatic exercise are all recommended
    • Tai-chi, especially for those with hip and knee OA
    • Medical devices and aids including canes, orthotic devices and wrist braces
  • Pharmacological approaches:
    • Topical non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs, especially for knees)
    • Oral NSAIDs
    • Steroid injections
    • Imaging guidance for injections.”3

Shoulder osteoarthritis, although not as common as hip or knee OA, has been estimated to be present in “1 in 3 people over the age of 60.”3 Primary OA has no definite cause, but is seen more frequently in women over the age of 50. In secondary OA, there is a known previous injury or infection that increases the risk of arthritis. Pain is the most common symptom of shoulder arthritis and can be exacerbated by activity, but often persists in advanced disease. Although there is no cure for shoulder OA, pain can be managed with oral and topical medications, or steroid injections into the various joint locations in the shoulder. According to the Arthritis Foundation, the provider will be looking for the following symptoms and medical history when diagnosing shoulder OA:

  • "Muscle strength
  • Tenderness to the touch
  • Mobility – both active and passive range of motion
  • Signs of new or old injuries
  • Other joints with signs of arthritis
  • Crepitus (a grating sensation inside the joint) with movement
  • Pain in certain positions
  • Swelling or joint enlargement”3

Limbs & Things range of Joint injection products helps providers practice and build confidence in the needed skills to perform the procedures safely in an outpatient or clinic setting. As the need continues to grow for these procedures, more providers will be needed to competently inject painful joints to meet the needs of the ageing population.

For more information on how products can support your training needs please contact OUR TEAM.


1: United National Department of Economic and Social Affairs: World Population Ageining 2017 
2: Osteoarthritis year in review 2019: epidemiology and therapy, March 2020 
3: Treatment Guidelines for Osteoarthritis