Musculoskeletal disorders, of which osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common, incur significant economic, social and psychological costs. Costs of illness have risen over recent decades accounting for up to 1-2.5% of the gross national product for those countries studied so far, including the USA, Canada, the UK, France and Australia. Arthritis has a significant impact on psychosocial and physical function and is known to be the leading cause of disability in later life. There are also significant out-of-pocket costs and loss of earnings due to changes in occupation and roles in domestic duties. Current guidelines for the management of OA of hip and knee include the recommendation of inexpensive but effective interventions. Although the guidelines have not had a specific economic evaluation, cost reductions may be expected. OA is a very common disease and will become an increasing economic burden as the population ages.