Last year, almost 96.000 people in Sweden went to see a doctor because of their osteoarthritis, a number that has increased with 2.3% since the year before and 22,5% since 2007. This is according to the latest numbers from the National Board of Health and Welfare in Sweden. Another newly published study shows that the prevalence of osteoarthritis is predicted to increase with up to 50% the next 15 years. And historically, the cases of osteoarthritis has doubled since the middle of the 1900’s.
A chronic condition with high costs
Osteoarthritis is a chronic disease that brings decreased joint function. When looking at the numbers from the National Board of Health and Welfare in Sweden about costs in healthcare, chronic conditions stand for about 80% of the total costs. Osteoarthritis is the most common chronic condition, with around 800.000 people affected by it in Sweden alone. But osteoarthritis doesn’t only affect society as a whole, of course - it also brings a reduced quality of life for the person living with the condition.
- The numbers from the National Board of Health and Welfare in Sweden confirm that the need for osteoarthritis care is increasing. The condition often causes great troubles for the person living with the disease, but those who stick to their treatment program oftentimes don’t need to see a doctor. However, this means that the treatment offered to the patient is easily available and fits their everyday life, Jakob Dahlberg, founder of Joint Academy - the company who has compiled the numbers, says.
The county of Norrbotten had both the lowest amount of osteoarthritis patients that saw a doctor for their pain, with 716 patients per 100.000 people, and the percentually biggest decrease with 13.7%. The county of Gotland had the highest amount of people with 1.402 patients per 100.000 people. However, the highest, percentual increase of the number of visits was in the counties of Jämtland and Blekinge, with just above 13% each.
Continuous, specific training
According to both national and international guidelines and research, osteoarthritis should first and foremost be treated with information and regular training, preferably with a physiotherapist. The physiotherapist coordinates the training that, for the most part, consists of specific exercises to increase the strength and function in the affected joints. Since osteoarthritis is a chronic condition, it does demand the patient to do their exercises continuously as well as keep the healthy lifestyle changes that is needed in order for the symptoms not to re-appear.
- Availability and motivation are the cornerstones in a successful osteoarthritis treatment. For some, digital treatment is the only option, but the important thing is that each person is able to choose what works best for oneself, Jakob Dahlberg says.
If you suspect that you might have osteoarthritis, you should…:
- See a doctor or a physiotherapist and get a diagnosis
- Start the foundational treatment of specific, physical exercises
- Find routines in order to make your training continuous
- Identify what other habits you are willing to change, e.g. something in your diet
- Be patient. The foundational treatment takes six weeks; some notice improvement earlier and some later, but either way you need to keep going for a long time.
What osteoarthritis is: The most common joint disease in the world
Amount of people affected: Approximately 800.000 Swedes, more than 30 million Americans
Cause: An imbalance in the breaking down- and building of molecules, which leads to a decreased joint function
Risk factors: Joint injuries, genetics, excess body weight, incorrect loading patterns, elite training in sports, age, and weak muscles.
Treatment: The symptoms can be reduced with the help of physical activity.
Source: The Swedish Rheumatism Association as well as the Swedish Care Guide.