Musculoskeletal Pain

Why Musculoskeletal Pain?

IASP decided to focus on musculoskeletal pain because it is an enormous problem that affects millions of people worldwide. According to leading pain experts—including IASP Global Year Co-Chairs Dr. Lars Arendt-Nielsen of the University of Aalborg, Denmark, and Dr. Kathleen A. Sluka of the University of Iowa, USA—more people around the world experience musculoskeletal pain than any other type of pain.

The problem of musculoskeletal pain is complex and far-reaching, encompassing many different types of pain, such as neck pain, limb pain, low back pain, joint pain, bone pain, and chronic widespread pain, just to name a few. Yet, despite the wide-ranging conditions and symptoms, all types of musculoskeletal pain share similar underlying mechanisms, manifestations, and potential treatments.

Challenges and Issues

IASP identified several major challenges surrounding musculoskeletal pain that the Global Year campaign addressed, including the following:

  • Treatment for musculoskeletal pain is not adequate.
  • At the chronic level, musculoskeletal pain is typically managed, but not cured.
  • It is often difficult to relate pathophysiological changes to the patient’s actual pain, which makes musculoskeletal pain especially challenging to diagnose.

Moreover, even when the source of the musculoskeletal pain is identifiable, it can still be difficult to link the source and the severity of the pain, as they do not always match. Although the patient’s pain is real, you cannot always see it. He or she is in pain, but the clinician cannot determine why or pinpoint the source.

Beyond the suffering and discomfort associated with musculoskeletal pain, there are huge financial and other costs, including medical care expenses, lost work days, and diminished quality and productivity in patients’ work and personal lives—all of which are fueled by worldwide trends, including:

  • Aging populations
  • Sedentary lifestyles
  • Increasing incidence of obesity


Letter from the President

I am pleased to announce the 2009–2010 Global Year Against Musculoskeletal Pain. This IASP-sponsored campaign will draw attention to the disabling pain experienced by people around the world suffering from musculoskeletal disorders. Built around the theme of “When Moving Hurts: Assess, Understand, Take Action,” this vital initiative calls upon each of us to provide a voice to those with musculoskeletal pain.

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