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Strength in Flexibility: Exploring Musculoskeletal Medicine

Musculoskeletal Medicine is a broad term that encompasses all medical disciplines that deal with the diagnosis and management of diseases or injuries of the musculoskeletal system. This includes the bones, muscles and connective tissues (tendons, ligaments and cartilage).

The major problem associated with musculoskeletal problems is pain. It is usually intense and localised to a particular area, often making movement difficult. It may also be aggravated by certain postures or movements, and alleviated by others. The pain may be felt as a result of injury, or may have developed over time in conditions such as osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

It is estimated that musculoskeletal disorders are the single leading cause of disability worldwide. They may interfere with a person’s ability to work, to exercise and to participate in social activities. This has a significant impact on the economy and is associated with loss of productivity, early retirement from employment, reduced accumulated wealth and a lower quality of life.

There are many different types of Musculoskeletal Medicine and treatment methods. These include rheumatologists, orthopaedic surgeons, physical medicine and rehabilitation specialists, anaesthetists who specialise in pain clinics and other health professionals such as physiotherapists and chiropractors. In addition there is a whole range of complementary treatments that may be used to treat musculoskeletal symptoms. However, there is a lack of well-designed evidence that they are effective and some can even be harmful.

It is important to remember that a health professional should always be consulted before starting any alternative treatment. They can assess whether it is suitable for you and advise on any possible harms. They can also check that it does not interact with any medications you are taking or cause other health problems.

The use of herbal medicines or supplements to treat musculoskeletal problems is increasing in some countries. These can include herbs such as capsaicin cream, ginger and turmeric and nutritional supplements such as glucosamine, chondroitin and SAM-e. However, there is little scientific evidence of their effectiveness and they are not recommended as a substitute for properly assessed and prescribed medicine.

People with musculoskeletal problems who do not receive effective management in primary care are at risk of poorer outcomes. Health systems must be able to respond to the growing burden of chronic musculoskeletal disease by offering integrated, coordinated, multidisciplinary care based around the individual. This should include not only expert medical care but also psychological and educational support, and access to other allied services such as occupational and community physiotherapy.


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