Chronic musculoskeletal (MSK) conditions—such as low back pain and hip or knee osteoarthritis—are the primary cause of disability in midlife and older adults in the United States. Individuals living with chronic MSK conditions often have trouble being physically active and experience a downward spiral in health and quality of life (QOL) due to the pain and resultant disability. Although there are number of community programs supporting physical activity for midlife and older adults, participation in these programs is mixed. Individuals with concerns about the impact of exercise on their MSK condition hesitate to participate; concerns about co-morbid conditions, including heart disease and diabetes, also keep individuals from participating.
The majority of midlife and older adults with chronic MSK conditions visit their primary care physician for help in management. Physicians provide exercise recommendations, but this verbal recommendation is usually not enough to initiate the transition from a sedentary lifestyle to a physically active one. In an effort to understand what will bridge the gap between a physical activity recommendation and actual participation, we will engage a community of midlife and older individuals with chronic MSK conditions, physicians, physical therapists, and community program directors. We will create an advisory committee to examine differing stakeholder priorities and methods for improving management of chronic MSK conditions. This will allow our panel to generate a research proposal matching stakeholder priorities with treatment to optimize the outcomes that matter most to patients and their families. We expect this will ultimately lead to improved QOL for these individuals.