Movement Health: Confronting the Global MSK Crisis

Hinge Health

Moving more may be a key to greater health, but for millions, moving well is another issue.

The Painful Truth

Musculoskeletal (MSK) conditions touch 1.7B people worldwide. An umbrella term for up to 200 conditions that affect the joints and bones, some 619M globally suffer from the most prevalent affliction: lower back pain.

With that number expected to reach 843M by 2050, poor MSK health will continue to place an unsustainable burden on healthcare.

  • Across Europe, 100M deal with MSK issues, costing €240B annually.
  • 30% GP visits in the UK are for MSK, treating 20M patients each year at a cost of ~£7B.
  • One in three Australians requires MSK care each year, costing ~A$9B.
  • 126M American sufferers accrue a yearly price tag of ~$380B via treatment, care and lost wages.

While MSK conditions are the greatest cause of disability, even lower-level MSK conditions can have a life-changing impact on physical activity, mental health and employment.

Notably, ~76% Australians with MSK problems say their condition is so severe that they can’t exercise, and ~45M in Europe claim they are unable to work.

Even with renewed interest in longevity, the disproportionate effect of MSK conditions on older adults presents serious questions about the healthspans of millions around the world.

Limbering Up

Startups and organisations have proactively launched digital and hybrid initiatives to empower the MSK community alongside health services or workplaces.

  • Working in partnership with the NHS in the UK, helps patients track their treatment with a wealth of data.
  • GripAble uses a hand-held device to quantify upper limb function.
  • After a successful pilot, ukactive increased its MSK health hubs to 100 sites.
  • Kaia Health, with HQs in Munich and New York, recently had its digital therapeutic for back pain approved for prescription in Germany.

On a positive note, the US has seen a flurry of startups raise significant funding for their B2B care platforms, including DarioHealth, SWORD Health (with offices in Australia and Portugal), Hinge Health and Sparta Science.

Yet, these companies may not be able to scale fast enough to meet demand, as some estimates say half of all Americans suffer a form of MSK pain.

Similarly, amidst a rise in MSK cases, Australia has been criticised for lacking resources, presenting an opportunity for the tech sector. On that front, painHEALTH is partnering with organisations on awareness and education, and Perx Health’s gamified app motivates users to manage their chronic conditions.

Looking ahead: Movement and a healthy weight are vital to MSK management, but educating people of all ages on proven holistic lifestyle changes – from sleep and stress management to better gut health — will help patients escape vicious circles of chronic pain.

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