Ontario Chiropractors Applaud WHO for Recognizing Low Back Pain and MSK Conditions for the First Time in 75 Years

November 1, 2023

Recently, the combined efforts of the chiropractic community, Global Alliance for Musculoskeletal Health (G-MUSC), and health care professionals worldwide resulted in World Health Organization (WHO) featuring low back pain (LBP) on the homepage of its website for the first time. It featured fact sheets for LBP, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis on the Fact sheets section of its website.

Screenshot of W.H.O. Homepage

“Historically, WHO has focused on communicable diseases,” says Dr. Deborah Kopansky-Giles, professor at the Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College (CMCC), OCA member, and representative of the chiropractic profession on G-MUSC (of the Bone and Joint Decade).

She noted that, “In the past decade or so, non-communicable diseases (NCD)s, such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and respiratory conditions have increased in priority at the global level. Unfortunately, musculoskeletal conditions were not included in WHO’s NCD program.”

Dr. Kopansky-Giles shared that the challenge has been that musculoskeletal (MSK) conditions vary in type and scope so it’s difficult to recognize it as a focused area on its own until recently.

She is proud of how the MSK community has come together to change this, “They managed to bring attention to the enormous burden of musculoskeletal conditions and encourage WHO to build this bridge, which has taken over two decades!”

G-MUSC works closely with WHO, and their advocacy efforts for MSK and LBP have resulted in this historic achievement. In the last year and a half, the United Nations agency has also been working on developing LBP Guidelines, also a first for WHO.

“In the 75 years of WHO, no MSK health issue has achieved the status of being on its homepage,” says Dr. Kopansky-Giles. “The importance of all this is that it shows that WHO is taking low back pain and MSK health seriously as a global burden of disease.”

LBP is the leading cause of disability worldwide. Patients with spine, muscle and joint issues often visit multiple care providers, including primary care physicians, specialists and emergency departments seeking help – adding up to about $2.4 billion in annual costs to Ontario’s health care system. In Ontario, many patients with LBP and other health conditions have no extended health benefits and little disposable income to access the care they need.

For chiropractors in Ontario, this means that local and federal governments will be more likely to recognize the impact of MSK conditions on people, their families, and communities. System redesign (such as including MSK care programs within funded primary care) and removal of financial barriers to accessing care are essential for equitable access to treatment chiropractors and other MSK health care professionals provide.

MSK Fact Sheets

WHO published the first fact sheet on MSK health in June 2022, and there are now several, which include:

  1. Low back pain (published June 2023)
  2. Osteoarthritis
  3. Rheumatoid arthritis

“The fact sheets are significant because this is the most commonly accessed resource that WHO produces for countries worldwide,” says Dr. Kopansky-Giles. “When an individual or organization from across the globe looks for the latest information on a disease, this is where they go.”

“In the end, it all comes down to the impact we have on our patients as chiropractors,” says Dr. Kopansky-Giles. “This really is what this work is all about.”