Benefits of treating musculoskeletal disorders 'outweigh the costs'

Published on 15 March 2013
Benefits of treating musculoskeletal disorders 'outweigh the costs'

The economic benefits of treating musculoskeletal disorders such as knee and hip problems are likely to be far greater than the financial costs of treating such conditions, a new study has claimed.

Researchers at IHS Global and KNG Health Consulting in the US analysed data on more than 185,000 adults from the National Health Interview Survey (2004 to 2010).

They identified clear links between the severity of physical activity limitations - such as walking, sitting and standing - and reduced employment rates, lower household income, increased days off work and reliance on benefits.

However, treating affected patients was associated with improvements in these measures, according to a report in the journal Cost Effectiveness and Resource Allocation.

For instance, improvements in physical function as a result of successful treatment led to an increased likelihood of employment and higher household income.

In addition, those with jobs took fewer days off work after receiving treatment for their musculoskeletal disorder, while reliance on benefits declined.

The study also looked specifically at people's circumstances following knee replacement surgery for arthritis.

Researchers found that an individual's chances of being employed increased by 20 per cent, while their annual income increased by an average of $4,300 (£2,840) and their number of sick days fell by six per year.

Lead researcher Tim Dall said the findings help to quantify the "indirect value" of common bone and joint procedures.

"It is important that policymakers and taxpayers, as well as affected individuals, are aware of how the cost of surgery balances against loss of employment and the need for long-term assistance in everyday living," he noted.

"This information on the indirect economic impact of treatment and the patient's quality of life combined with direct medical costs is needed to fully understand the net value of treatment."

A spokeswoman for Arthritis Research UK said: "The more that can be done to improve the quality of life for people with musculoskeletal conditions, and that includes keeping them well and in work, then the better for them and for wider society."