Musculoskeletal Pain 101: How it Might Affect Your Employees

April 13th, 2022  by  Hinge Health – Editorial Staff

How Musculoskeletal Problems Can Impact the Life and Health of Your Employees

Musculoskeletal pain is a type of condition that afflicts the bones, tendons, muscles, and ligaments. Many conditions would be classified as musculoskeletal due to varied forms of musculoskeletal pain.

According to a report by the World Health Organization (WHO), 1.71 billion people worldwide have some musculoskeletal disorder. Unfortunately, the majority of musculoskeletal conditions go untreated.

Let’s discuss the role of musculoskeletal injuries in daily life, where they come from, and the impact on the health of your employees.

What is Musculoskeletal Pain?

Musculoskeletal pain simply refers to generalized pain. The causes of a musculoskeletal disorder vary wildly.

For example, your employees may experience musculoskeletal disorders due to wear and tear caused by regular activities. These problems are not limited to physical roles. Even office workers who don’t sit in an ergonomically designed chair can experience musculoskeletal injury.

Direct blows to the muscle could also lead to musculoskeletal pain. For example, there were 12.15 million vehicles involved in auto accidents in 2019. A significant proportion would have caused fractures, sprains, dislocations, and direct, blunt force trauma to the muscles.

As an employer, if you fail to take proactive action to protect your employees, you may find yourself covering their medical treatment as part of your employer-funded healthcare plan.

People who suffer from a musculoskeletal injury often complain that they feel as if their whole bodies ache. They may feel like their muscles are overworked or strained, while twitching and burning sessions become more common.

The most common symptoms of musculoskeletal problems include:

  • Fatigue
  • Pain
  • Sleep problems

Symptoms vary from person to person. It’s not uncommon for people who have a musculoskeletal disorder to ignore the problem for years until symptoms worsen.

Types of Musculoskeletal Conditions

The broad definition of musculoskeletal means that there are so many potential conditions an employee could experience. Statistics from several years ago revealed that as many as one in two Americans had some form of musculoskeletal issue.

Here’s a brief overview of some of the most common conditions:

  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Bone fractures
  • Tendinitis

Symptoms will worsen with time, but by taking prompt action, you can help your team manage their symptoms and enjoy a higher quality of life for years to come.

Your risk depends on numerous factors. Age is the most common contributor, with older people more likely to experience the wear and tear of a life well-lived. Occupation also causes problems, with employees in demanding physical jobs at particular risk.

Family history can also increase your risk. Some types of disorders are genetic in nature, meaning if your parents suffered from a problem, you would have an elevated risk of having the same problem later in life. Certain activities, such as repetitive activities, maintaining poor posture, and lifting heavy weights, can also increase the wear and tear of the musculoskeletal system.

The Impact of Musculoskeletal Pain on Employee Health

Musculoskeletal system diseases can greatly impact your team’s health. Understanding the physical, mental, and economic consequences of not giving your employees the support they need to address their musculoskeletal disorders is critical.

Employees suffering from musculoskeletal pain face a problematic future, directly impacting your business.

Absenteeism

Employees suffering from chronic conditions must take time off. Regular time off costs the average small employer $81 per year per employee. Absenteeism means your employees must stay home and cannot attend to their duties or take care of their families.

In some cases, long periods away from the workplace could mean taking unpaid time off and losing out on overtime.

Reduced Productivity

You want your employees to perform to the best of their abilities. Unfortunately, fighting through the pain means reduced productivity. An employee may have to take extra breaks to manage their back pain. They could be unable to carry out their duties, such as lifting heavy loads. People in pain cannot perform at their best, lowering their overall productivity.

Worsening Problems for Others

Consider the knock-on effects that go further than the person suffering from a musculoskeletal problem. Someone else needs to pick up the slack. Putting undue strain on the rest of your team by giving them extra duties and needing to intervene for an employee who’s attempting to push through the pain barrier increases their risk of experiencing burnout, stress, and even chronic pain themselves.

An unhealthy team breeds an even unhealthier team, which will worsen the problem from the business’s side.

Mental Health Costs

It should come as no surprise that chronic condition management puts massive stress on the person experiencing regular pain.

Stress regularly leads to mental health conditions, with an estimated one in five Americans having some form of mental health condition. In 2019, approximately $225 billion was spent on mental health services, and yet it barely scratches the surface of the problem.

Economic Consequences

Beyond the clear economic consequences for business owners, employer-sponsored health plans often don’t cover the services employees need, such as musculoskeletal therapy. It’s even rarer for traditional group insurance plans to cover preventative therapies.

Even if some services are covered partially, deductibles may force employees to meet the costs of their care continually. After paying out a deductible, employees must pay gas money and spend their leisure time attending appointments.

Over the course of working life, musculoskeletal disorders cost tens of thousands of dollars in direct and indirect healthcare-related costs.

Disability

The final stop, when someone is living with one of these disorders, is a disability. The cost of disability is massive, with many employees unable to work when their conditions get to a point where they have to quit.

Although your compensation scheme may support them for a limited time, the cost of disability is crushing even with governmental welfare payments. They may not have the income to support their current standard of living, nor have the people around them to stop them from experiencing mental health problems, such as depression.

Disability can break down the finest employee, which is a real possibility because musculoskeletal pain worsens with time.

Get the Support You Need with Hinge Health

Musculoskeletal system diseases represent a serious problem for America’s workforce. Many of these issues can be prevented or limited by changing your lifestyle and work practices.

Employers have a significant role to play by ensuring their health insurance plans support these problems. Hinge Health is an end-to-end clinic partnering with employees nationwide to provide everything from preventative exercise programs to post-operative rehab and virtual physical therapy.

To learn more about what we do to support your employees, contact Hinge Health now.

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