Background: The proportion of older people will be tripled by the year 2050. In addition, the incidence of chronic musculoskeletal (MSK) conditions will also increase among the elderly people. Thus, in order to prepare for future health care demands, the magnitude and impact of MSK conditions from this growing population is needed. The objective of this literature review is to determine the current prevalence of MSK diseases in the elderly population.
Methods: A systematic literature search was conducted in Pubmed on articles in English, published between January 2000 and July 2011. Studies from developed countries with prevalence estimates on elderly people (60+) on the following MSK conditions were included: Non-specific extremity pain, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, and back pain. The included articles were extracted for information and assessed for risk of bias.
Results: A total of 85 articles were included with 173 different prevalence estimates. Musculoskeletal disorders are common in the elderly population, but due to heterogeneity of the studies, no general estimate on the prevalence of MSK can be determined. Women report more often MSK pain than men. Overall, prevalence estimates either remain fairly constant or increase slightly with increasing age, but with a tendency to decrease in the oldest (80+) people.
Conclusions: Musculoskeletal diseases remain prevalent in the elderly population. Given the increasing proportion of elderly population in the world population and the burden of MSK diseases among the elderly people, efforts must be made to maintain their functional capacity for as long as possible through optimal primary and secondary health care.
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