Active living and early detection are key to alleviating the osteoarthritis tsunami

Spain is expected to have the double the number of people with osteoarthritis between now and 2040, a “tsunami” of cases that threatens the health care system but that can be cushioned by active living, good sleep, and early detection, especially among women, because they are the ones who suffer the most from these problems.

The Axa auditorium in Barcelona brought together between Wednesday and today some 500 specialists in the framework of the. International Congress of Patients with Osteoarthritis, organized by the Osteoarthritis International Foundation (Oafi).

A conclave that has addressed, through 40 tables and with 80 speakers, the main challenges of the osteoarthritis -or osteoarthritis-, which is closely linked to the mental health, sleep quality and physical activity.

“Many people believe that when they are in pain they have to stay in bed and it’s a mistake, as they osteoarthritis is not cured on the couch.” stresses OAFI president Josep Vergés, who has emphasized the importance of having an physically active life, although without excesses, so as not to worsen the disease.

Hence the motto of this congress is. “Move against osteoarthritis”, an ailment that is among the most prevalent in the world, with 500 million people who suffer from it worldwide and 10 million in Spain.

In Spain, which is lucky enough to be “the geriatric ward of Europe” because of the high life expectancy of Spaniards and the large number of foreigners who move to this country when they retire, it is estimated that the prevalence of osteoarthritis “is going to double by 2040”, OAFI’s president stresses.

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In his opinion, this is a “tsunami” of cases that will pose a challenge to a national healthcare system, which currently already allocates 4.8 billion euros to this problem.

More prevalent in women

Osteoarthritis is especially prevalent among the. female sex, as one in four women over 15 years of age has osteoarthritis.

There is no cure for this disease, but there are treatments aimed at reducing pain and delaying progression, something that is easier if diagnosed in early stages.

Thus, early detection is fundamental, even before the appearance of the symptoms, but unfortunately there is no biomarker on the market that could be used for a prevention program with general screening among asymptomatic patients.

In the absence of such a tool, it is advisable for anyone to be on the lookout for risk factors for osteoarthritis such as, for example, if a direct relative already suffers from this ailment -there are hereditary component-, if the person in question suffers from skeletal or muscular alterations or if he or she practices a sport that is aggressive for the body.

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It is also advisable to practice what is known as. chondroprotection, i.e., the set of actions aimed at preventing, delaying or repairing degenerative lesions of the joint.

These include no being overweight, following the Mediterranean diet, walking with good footwear (no heels). or rehabilitating well from any injury.

According to OAFI’s president, in prevention it is. “a complement of prime necessity” the figure of the physiotherapist, which the Health Department of the Generalitat is going to establish in every primary school in Catalonia, gradually, during the next year.


The physiotherapist not only aids in recovery, but can also teach the patient guidelines to do at home, as well as well-structured physical exercise in a preventive way, which is good for both physical and mental health.

Another of the issues to be addressed at the congress is precisely the relationship between larthrosis and depression, two diseases that are often associated because they are genetically related, explained Antoni Bulbena, a psychiatrist at Parc Salut Mar.

On the other hand, Dr. Carla Estivill, a specialist in sleep quality, has pointed out that the “pandemic of insomnia”. sleep is physical and mental repair, so it is essential to get the right amount of sleep,” he said.

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