Musculoskeletal aging

Curr Opin Rheumatol. 2004 Mar;16(2):114-8. doi: 10.1097/00002281-200403000-00007.


Purpose of review: Chronic conditions associated with musculoskeletal aging contribute to a heavy functional and economic burden for our rapidly aging population. The purpose of this article is to review recent investigations in musculoskeletal epidemiology related to aging.

Recent findings: Well over half the older adults in the United States report chronic joint symptoms. With the projected growth of the older population in the next 25 years, the number of elders with arthritis is expected to double to 41 million. Accumulating evidence points to large ethnic and racial differences in the prevalence of arthritis. Primary care interventions to improve self-management of arthritis have been developed and tested, although further work in this area is warranted. Progress is being made in other major chronic conditions associated with aging. Research shows that optimal screening for osteoporotic fracture risk will require risk factor information in addition to bone densitometry. Recent findings shed new light on treatments for osteoporosis and musculoskeletal pain. A new field of study is investigating sarcopenia, or skeletal muscle loss, in very old populations. Research to date has uncovered evidence that this disabling condition may be the result of immunologic and hormonal changes related to aging.

Summary: Investigations in many areas are contributing to a better understanding of the major chronic conditions that affect the lives of many older adults. However, the surge in the elderly population will require far greater research and intervention efforts to postpone or prevent a huge population burden of disability related to common musculoskeletal problems of old age.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Hip Fractures / epidemiology
  • Hip Fractures / etiology
  • Hip Fractures / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Osteoarthritis / complications
  • Osteoarthritis / epidemiology
  • Osteoarthritis / physiopathology
  • Osteoporosis / complications
  • Osteoporosis / drug therapy
  • Osteoporosis / epidemiology
  • Osteoporosis / physiopathology
  • Pain / etiology
  • Prevalence
  • Self Care