Healthy living

Britain facing a 'tsunami of pain'

Britain facing a  tsunami of pain Cases of osteoarthritis set to double by 2030

Britain is facing a "tsunami of pain" as cases of osteoarthritis are set to double to more than 17 million by 2030, a leading expert has warned.

Philip Conaghan, a professor of musculoskeletal medicine at the University of Leeds, says that increased life expectancy and rising obesity rates mean that millions more people will soon be affected by the joint-related illness, which commonly occurs in the hips, knees and hands.

The prediction was made after a survey by the charity Arthritis Care found that, of the 8.5 million people in the UK with osteoarthritis (OA), 71 per cent are currently in some form of constant pain, with one in eight saying the pain was often "unbearable."

The survey findings are included in the report OANation, produced by the charity to coincide with Arthritis Care Week.

The survey of 2,000 people with osteoarthritis also found that the average age of diagnosis for the condition is now 57, with as many as one in five people being diagnosed under the age of 45.

With more people living into their 80s, many people with osteoarthritis may face the prospect of living with painful joints for over 30 years, the charity said.

One in five people with osteoarthritis said they had to give up work or retire early because of their symptoms.

And more than half (52%) said they had given up or reduced the amount of walking they did since being diagnosed with the condition.

Professor Conaghan said: "Britain is facing a tsunami of pain due to osteoarthritis as the number of people over 50 increases dramatically and obesity levels continue to rise.

"Action is needed immediately; we have to bust this myth that painful joints are an inevitable part of getting older that we have to put up with.

"I see 45-year-old joiners who are being diagnosed with knee pain and I know that they won’t be able to carry on working long enough to pay off their mortgages. This disease has a big impact on the ability of individuals to earn a living – especially in manual trades."

He also said that osteoarthritis had huge implications for the wider economy in terms of lost working years and also for the NHS, which currently carries out over 140,000 hip and knee replacements a year.

Judith Brodie, chief executive officer of Arthritis Care, said: "OANation 2012 clearly demonstrates that the individual, economic and societal burden of OA is already enormous, but with an ageing and increasingly obese population the future is looking bleak.

"We need policy-makers and professionals to take the condition seriously; to implement robust and meaningful strategies to address how OA is treated and managed across the UK and to improve health services."

This article was published on Wed 9 May 2012

Image © Sebastian Kaulitzki -

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