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Knee pain in older adults: the latest musculoskeletal “epidemic”
  1. ARC Epidemiology Unit
  2. University of Manchester Medical School
  3. Oxford Road
  4. Manchester M13 9PT, UK

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Musculoskeletal health is often overlooked on the public health agenda. However, thanks to campaign headlines such as “the silent epidemic”, there is now greater awareness of the burden of illness caused by two of the most prevalent musculoskeletal disorders—back pain and osteoporosis. Whole journals, meetings, and learned societies are devoted to the study of these two conditions and major progress has been made towards understanding their cause and appropriate management. The time has now come to give knee pain in older adults the same attention and resources. As shown in table 1, knee pain is more common than back pain in older adults and, with the changing demography in developed countries, this is an epidemic which is destined to grow.1

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Table 1

Crude prevalence of self reported pain (lasting at least one week in the previous month) in residents of Tameside, Greater Manchester, UK (per 100)

It is likely that some of the lessons learnt from the study of back pain may apply to knee pain. For example, when it comes to assessing healthcare needs it is more useful to focus on the symptom (knee pain) than on the underlying pathology (usually osteoarthritis (OA)).2 Healthcare needs assessment has a number of well defined steps.3 Firstly, to estimate the number of people with the condition in the community. Secondly, to evaluate all …

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