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Bone and Joint Health National Awareness Week: What You Can Do

Cheryl Lathrop

Last updated: November 22, 2016 3:32 pm

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Are you aware of your “musculoskeletal condition” (your bones and joints)? It’s probably not something you think of every day!

October 12-20 is Bone and Joint Health National Awareness Week. Activities during the week focus on arthritis, back/spine pain, osteoporosis (bone thinning), broken bones, traumatic injuries (e.g., sports or automobile injuries), and childhood conditions. Events are designed to raise awareness of prevention and treatment. Why? Because nearly half of adult Americans have their movement restricted by a musculoskeletal condition.

Let’s look at some stats from the U.S. Bone and Joint Initiative (USBJI):

  • About 48% of the American population over the age of 18 are affected by musculoskeletal conditions 1.
  • Musculoskeletal conditions are the most common cause of severe long-term pain and physical disability worldwide affecting hundreds of millions of people 2.

Bone and joint conditions are a huge cost to society. In the U.S., the annual cost is estimated at $950 billion. The USBJI wants to help prevent bone and joint conditions with increased awareness, better information, and more research. They want to reduce costs associated with bone and joint conditions, but they also want you to lead an active and healthy life!

Many healthcare organizations will develop their own materials to increase bone and joint awareness during this week. You’ll see signs, brochures, and events. What can you do? Pick up the literature and attend an event to learn more.

Osteoporosis and Low Bone Mass Affect Half of US Adults, According to New Data

The National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF) recently announced an alarming update to prevalence data they originally released in 2013, revealing that more than half of American adults are affected by osteoporosis and low bone mass as of this year. The updated data stems from a study conducted by the University of Alabama at Birmingham, published online in April by the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research.

Of the 54 million adults aged 50 and older currently affected, an estimated 35.5 million are women, who are more prone to both osteoporosis and low bone mass than men. By 2020, the number of adults affected is projected to grow to 64.4 million, and then increase by roughly 10% over the following decade.

According to Amy Porter, the executive director and CEO of NOF, “[Osteoporosis] causes an estimated two million broken bones each year and often results in immobility, pain, placement in a nursing home, isolation and other health problems.”

The study indicates that an alarming 10.2 million adults are currently diagnosed with osteoporosis, and the NOF anticipates that the number of fractures will grow concurrently to the increase in prevalence of the disease over the next twenty years. The most serious fractures related to osteoporosis are hip fractures, which often lead to hip replacement surgery, a procedure that is made more difficult by the severe bone deterioration caused by the disease.

Included in the study is a country-wide analysis which shows that states in the southwest, most notably Nevada and Arizona, are projected to experience the greatest increase in prevalence of osteoporosis and low bone mass (up to 50% to 60%) by 2030. The NOF’s Prevalence Map details the projected percent increase for each state.

Robert F. Gagel, M.D., NOF’s president, stated, “With 43.4 million adults at-risk for osteoporosis, it’s more important than ever to apply preventative measures early in life to protect those with low bone mass from developing osteoporosis.”

Taking Care of Your Bones and Joints

But most of all, keep your own bones and joints healthy. Be active! Get some exercise! Physical activity helps your bones and joints and can postpone or prevent musculoskeletal disorders. WebMD recommends doing strengthening, aerobic, and flexibility (range-of-motion) exercises 3. In fact, scientific evidence recommends regular lifelong physical activity to improve musculoskeletal health 4.

Eating right is always an important part of maintaining your overall health, and your musculoskeletal condition will benefit from a healthy diet, too! Bones need lots of calcium and vitamin D. Doctors suggest up to 1,500 mg of calcium daily. Try to get your calcium via your meals (e.g., milk, yogurt) and make up the difference with a calcium supplement (e.g., vitamin pill). Did you know that the vitamin D helps your body absorb the calcium? But, always check with your doctor first to see how much calcium you need.

And always see your health care provider if you start to experience pain or discomfort in your bones or joints. Many conditions can be treated without surgery—using heat, ice, exercise, muscle relaxants, anti-inflammatory medications, pain relievers, physical therapy, activity modification, or joint injections.

But, sometimes surgery is necessary for pain relief. During a knee or hip replacement, the painful, damaged surfaces of the joint are removed and replaced with plastic or metal implants. This gets rid of the pain, because the diseased cartilage and bone are now no longer there. In most cases, this surgery relieves pain and improves joint function.

However, joint replacement carries the risk of infections or blood clots. And it may not work as well as hoped. An implant could also be defective, loosen, dislocate, or wear out. Additionally, there have been issues with some hip and knee implants. The FDA has recalled some devices. For others, it has issued notices expressing concern. And there are some ongoing lawsuits. Check out our Medical Device Recalls page for additional information on problems with these devices.

There are five special days during Bone and Joint Health National Awareness Week 5:

  • October 12 – World Arthritis Day
  • October 16 – World Spine Day
  • October 17 – World Trauma Day
  • October 19 – World Pediatric Bone and Joint (PB&J) Day
  • October 20 – World Osteoporosis Day
  1. United States Bone and Joint Initiative: The Burden of Musculoskeletal Diseases in the United States. Rosemont, IL: American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons; 2011 

  2. Burden of Major Musculoskeletal Conditions, Woolf & Pfleger, WHO Bulletin 2003; 81: 646-56 

  3. http://www.webmd.com/health-insurance/protect-health-13/exercise-bones 

  4. Vuori I. Exercise and physical health: musculoskeletal health and functional capabilities. Res Q Exerc Sport. 1995 Dec;66(4):276-85. 

  5. http://www.usbji.org/programs/public-education-programs/action-week