What are musculoskeletal pains (MSK)?
Musculoskeletal pains (MSK) are typically categorised by pain experienced in the lower back, neck, and shoulders. In a study conducted by the Singapore General Hospital (SGH), it was reported that 46% of respondents had experienced neck pain, followed closely by shoulder pain and lower back pain measured at 42% each. Interestingly, it was also found that females had experienced a greater incidence of musculoskeletal pains than males.
- Severity of MSK
- What are the consequences?
- What’s causing this pain?
- Prevention is the better cure
- A digital health solution for MSK pains
Severity of MSK
A greater threat than chronic diseases
Musculoskeletal pains are becoming increasingly prevalent in recent years. As employers, chronic health conditions pose a constant threat to our organisation’s wellbeing. The presence of diseases like cancers, diabetes, and hypertension coupled with the likes of mental illnesses such as depression and work-related anxiety could potentially take a toll on your company’s productivity levels. If left unattended, employees may suffer from consequential absenteeism and lowered company morale.
The pains of remote work
Additionally, since the inception of the pandemic, more companies have adopted remote work scheduling and work-from-home arrangements. This consequently led to employees seeing an increase in their sedentary time due to the elimination of work commute, inevitably leading to the acceleration of an arising epidemic: musculoskeletal (MSK) disorders – an upcoming epidemic that’s primarily affecting corporate professionals.
What are the consequences?
Chronic health conditions addressed by companies tend to cover physical ailments ranging from heart disease to mental health. However, the sinister impact of musculoskeletal disorders tends to go unnoticed due to their indirect effects on an employee’s health and overall wellbeing. As such, the underlying causes of musculoskeletal disorders could potentially affect your company financially and professionally via increased insurance claims and increments to lost workdays.
In addition, several other studies have also discovered correlations between lower back pain and productivity levels. It was found that employees who had experienced lower back pain were absent for an additional 4 days per work year, costing companies an average of $34,600 for every 100 employees.
What’s causing this pain?
Since the start of the pandemic, musculoskeletal pains have evidently become more prominent for employees that adopted work-from-home arrangements. The combination of several key factors such as:
- Poor ergonomics of their work setups
- Hours of back-to-back conference calls
- Overall increase in sedentary time
formulates the perfect concoction for an increase in musculoskeletal pains. With everything at an arm’s length away, your employee is less incentivised to move away from their workstations. Hence, it wouldn’t come as a surprise for an employee to spend their entire workday being sedentary, contrary to working from the office where they could possibly clock hundreds, if not thousands of steps during their commute.
Ironically, the lack of movement causes an eventual pain to movement. For instance, the surrounding muscles of the back could be strained due to prolonged inactivity when an employee spends half their day seated without postural adjustments. As such, this could potentially lead to an ongoing inflammation of the commonly affected areas of the lower back, neck, and shoulders, resulting in pain during movement.
Lower back pain – a common occurrence
In recent years, lower back pain has evidently been on a steady rise with the increased adoption of remote working arrangements by companies. Unsurprisingly, it is one of the most common physical ailments in the world affecting both performance and quality of life. Moreover, it is also the leading cause of physical disability, acting as one of the top few reasons why people are paying doctors more frequent visits.
Singapore isn’t spared
In Singapore alone, it has been estimated that nearly 80% of adults suffer from lower back pain. This is a definite cause for concern as more people are experiencing bodily pains in their neck, back, and shoulder regions, owing to this to the sharp incline in sedentary time due to the lack of movement to and from work.
Prevention is the better cure
Although physical therapy administered via chiropractors, physiotherapists, and sports masseuses provide temporary relief for your symptoms, the majority of employees only start seeking treatment when their lower back pain starts radiating down the back of their legs. Despite being effective treatment methodologies, such pain-relief treatments do not address the underlying cause of the problem: lifestyle habits.
Importance of education
A simple approach such as educating employees on proper ergonomics and movement habits goes a long way. For instance, incorporating movement breaks within bouts of prolonged sedentary time and conducting webinars on proper seated postural adjustments could potentially help to address the pains experienced by your workforce. As such, your employees stand to benefit from such long-term solutions with a better understanding of the root causes of their pains.
Getting a sedentary employee to integrate daily movement habits might be challenging at the start. Hence, it is also important to include guided support to complement these educational resources provided – particularly, behavioral health support. This could be delivered simply via daily reminders to prompt the user to move and clock in their daily movement routine.
Why movement is key
Moving our bodies helps to lubricate our joints. Conversely, the lack of movement tends to have the opposite effect – inducing a sensation of stiffness. In more severe cases, pain after sitting at our desks for the whole day. Hence, the incorporation of some movement is pivotal in the prevention and alleviation of musculoskeletal pains.
The start is always the hardest. There’s no denying that sticking to an exercise routine is tough, much less starting as a sedentary individual. This is why in addition to educating the masses on the importance of exercise and movement, it is also pivotal that adequate guidance is provided to keep drop-off rates at a low.
A digital health solution for MSK pains
With the rise of digital health and remote solutions for common pains and ailments, musculoskeletal pains can also be addressed in a similar manner via the use of a one-stop, all-in-one mobile platform with Lexly’s mobile application. Lexly primarily adopts a preventive approach to MSK pain management via educating and guiding our users through their personalised, pain-free programs curated specifically for their conditions.
As an employer, Lexly’s solution could present itself in the form of employee benefits, under the umbrella of employee benefits insurance. To learn more about our solution offered, drop us an email at [email protected] to schedule a free discovery call with our team.