Musculoskeletal health in the workplace
What is musculoskeletal (MSK) health?
Put simply, musculoskeletal health is the working of joints and muscles, and the ability to perform the physical tasks of daily living comfortably.
Having good musculoskeletal health is vital for a full working life. It helps with balance and co-ordination, mobility and dexterity, and contributes to strength and endurance. These are essential to nearly all forms of work.
There are a range of MSK conditions which can lead to poor musculoskeletal health, including:
- Joint conditions (such as osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis)
- Spinal disorders (such as neck pain, low back pain and sciatica)
- Bone conditions (such as osteoporosis)
- Musculoskeletal injuries (such as strains and sprains, which can be related to job role or sport)
- Regional and widespread pain disorders (such as frozen shoulder and tennis elbow)
- Genetic, congenital and developmental disorders (such as club foot)
- Multisystem inflammatory diseases (such as systemic lupus erythematosus)
The cost of poor musculoskeletal health
With 1 in 8 of the working age population reported to have an MSK condition, then it is a major business concern:
- musculoskeletal problems (including back pain, neck pain and upper limb problems) is a leading cause of sickness absence in the UK, second only to minor illnesses (ONS, 2019)
- in 2018, MSK conditions resulted in a significant 27.8 million days being lost due to sickness absence (ONS, 2019)
- the prevalence of MSK in the workforce is likely to increase to 7 million by 2030, as a consequence of our ageing workforce, as older workers are at greater risk of MSK problems
- an estimated 8.9 million working days were lost due to work-related MSK conditions in 2019-20.
Although poor MSK health can affect all industries and business sectors, the industries that showed higher than average rates of MSK disorders included: agriculture, forestry and fishing, construction and human health and social work activities (HSE, 2020).
MSK problems can represent a substantial cost to your business through:
- sick pay
- lost productivity
- loss of key skills and staff (which can disproportionately affect SMEs)
- legal costs and injury benefit
However, there is a significant opportunity for cost reduction, since:
- MSK problems are manageable and can be prevented
- litigation can be avoided as preventing MSK problems is often a health and safety requirement
How can your business promote MSK health?
All businesses should be thinking about how they can prevent and support MSK problems. Poor MSK health can affect all industries and business sectors (from construction through to banking). It can also affect all types of employees (from those who are deskbound to those who work in manufacturing).
Increasingly, responsible employers are taking a proactive approach by supporting employees to lead healthier lifestyles that will reduce the risk of MSK problems. This may be by supporting employees to stop smoking, providing healthier snacks, or encouraging staff to spend more time away from their desks. These are just some of the simple, inexpensive steps you can take towards creating a healthier workplace.
Support in Staffordshire
Everyone Health Staffordshire
Everyone Health Staffordshire offer a free healthy lifestyle service to Staffordshire residents. This includes support to help people get more active, lose weight and stop smoking. Please note, some restrictions do apply.
They also offer a free healthy workplace service to some businesses in Staffordshire, to support employees to stay healthy. Restrictions do apply, so please contact Everyone Health to discuss if your business may be eligible.
Resources to promote musculoskeletal health in the workplace
Below are some guides, websites, campaigns and resources to help you to support Musculoskeletal Health in your workplace.
Business in the Community has partnered with Public Health England to produce this simple and informative step-by-step guide to support businesses to deal with back, neck, muscle and joint pain at work. It contains all the information and resources you need to develop an evidence-based approach to musculoskeletal health that works for your business.
This is a form produced by the Department for Work and Pensions. It can be used by people who have a disability or health condition that makes it harder for them to move into work or stay in a job.
It can help people:
- Identify what support and changes (known as reasonable adjustments) they may need when in work or moving into work.
- Apply for support from 'Access to Work'. This could include funding for specialist equipment and support getting to and from work.
- Talk to employers about adjustments and in work support they may need.
Campaigns, websites and apps:
This website provides advice to prevent and manage MSK conditions, including tools to assess the risks of manual handling and repetitive tasks. There is also advice on using display screen equipment (DSE) safely.
Support your employees to lead a healthier lifestyle. Find information on losing weight, getting more physically active, support to stop smoking and tips on drinking less alcohol.
Why not encourage your employees to have a go at the ‘how are you?’ quiz.
This website includes lots of information on back pain, including some exercises for lower back pain and sciatica, information on why we should all sit less and tips for laptop users.
There are an increasing number of health and wellbeing apps available. We are making it easier for you and your employees to find apps that can help you to stay healthy and well with our health and wellbeing app finder tool. This includes the top rated apps for musculoskeletal health.
Staffordshire Connects is our easy to use directory. It provides details about hundreds of different care, support and wellbeing organisations, local activities, clubs and community groups taking place across Staffordshire.
You can find a range of local healthy lifestyle support services within the 'Adults and Communities' section, under 'Health and Wellness'.
This informative website covers a range of topics including what is arthritis, managing symptoms, treatments and living with arthritis.
This website has information on the different types of arthritis, what causes it and advice on how to manage it.
Take a look at our physical activity in the workplace page for ideas on how to support your employees to improve their physical activity levels, as part of a healthier lifestyle.
Get in touch
Let us know what you’re doing in your workplace around musculoskeletal health by emailing Workplace Health.