Clinical Care Resources - Arthritis

Arthritis and related conditions are a large group of disorders affecting the joints, ligaments, tendons, bones and other components of the musculoskeletal system.  Arthritis is one of the most prevalent chronic health conditions in Canada and a leading cause of disability.  The associated pain, disability and disruption of lives due to the condition contributes to a poorer quality of life and places demands on the health care system. As the population ages, the burden can only be expected to increase. (1) (2)

Why is it Important?

  • 16.6% of the adult population in Canada reported having arthritis in Canadian Health Surveys.(2)
  • Compared with other people with chronic conditions, people with arthritis report more pain, activity restrictions and long term disability, are more likely to need help with daily activities, report worse self-rated health , disrupted sleep and depression
  • People with arthritis report more frequent contact with health care professionals, compared to people with other chronic conditions
  • Arthritis becomes increasingly prevalent with advancing age. Among individuals ≥ 65 yr.  females were 50% more likely than males to report a diagnosis of arthritis (2)
  • Individuals with arthritis are more likely to use medications and be multiple medication users (2)
  • Arthritis is associated with falls and fractures (2)

Key Considerations

  • Initiatives to reduce the pain and disability from the effects of arthritis are crucial to maintain and improve the individual’s quality of life. These could include increased physical activity, education for chronic disease self-management, pain relief (including medications), access to assistive devices and environmental accommodations, and medical or surgical interventions.
  • There is no cure. Early diagnosis and treatment (pharmacological and nonpharmacological) can reduce/slow disabling complications and deformities.  Care planning should include strategies to maintain and maximize abilities.
  • People with arthritis are more likely to:
    • report reduction of activities at work or not being in the labour force
    • experience negative consequences including job loss, changing  jobs or reduction in  hours at work, productivity loss (absenteeism, job disruptions) (1)
  • Physical and occupational therapy can prevent loss of physical functioning. Exercise programs for people with arthritis have been shown to yield significant improvements in pain and disability as well as a decrease in the need for medication. (2)
  • Men and women who were obese had higher odds of developing arthritis than did those who reported acceptable weight (2)  
  • Education and health promotion are important and essential components of a comprehensive approach in the management of arthritis and related conditions (1)


1.  Health Canada. (2003).  Arthritis in Canada. An ongoing challenge.  (Cat. # H39-4/14-2003E;
     ISBN 0-662-35008-1).  Retrieved March 2014 from the Arthritis Community Research & Evaluation Unit:

2.  Statistics Canada (2010). Retrieved May 2014 from: