Is Back, Neck And Muscle Pain Hurting The UK Economy?

 

Almost 31 million days of work were lost last year due to back, neck and muscle problems, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). The ONS's 'Labour Force Survey' polls hundreds of thousands of people in the UK. The survey found that musculoskeletal (MSK) conditions, which include a large range of bone and joint complaints, accounted for more prolonged absences than any other ailment. Minor illnesses such as the common cough or cold accounted for 27 million lost days but MSK's were more likely to recur and develop into long-term conditions.
 
Although the country's workforce has largely swapped heavy manual labour for sitting in offices, MSK's have been the primary cause of absenteeism for the past five years and the UK has one of the highest rates in Europe.  In fact, the 'Work Foundation' estimates that employees suffering from bone and joint pain cost the EU's economies 240bn euros (£200bn) each year.
 
So why have bone and joint complaints persisted?
 
"Sitting is the new smoking," explains Prof Steve Bevan, director of the 'Centre for Workforce Effectiveness' at the Work Foundation. "The more sedentary you are the worse it is for your health."

While there are still significant numbers doing work that requires lifting or awkward movement, strict health and safety legislation has helped reduce the amount of injuries incurred in those jobs. Offices, it turns out, can be harmful environments. Most deskbound workers, however, are not adequately addressing their health risks, and waving away the pesky "work station assessment officer". Preventative measures, such as keeping chairs, desks and computers at the right height, are often neglected.

"Many office workers make repetitive movements", says Prof Bevan. "Allowing people to move around and take breaks is essential."

Once symptoms do occur, we are slow to react. A two-year trial in Madrid showed that by assessing and treating 13,000 workers with MSKs who had been off for five days or more, their temporary work absence was reduced by 39% in the long term. The Work Foundation estimates that more than 60,000 Britons would be available for work if the Madrid tactics were replicated in the UK.

However, even the more careful among us are at risk of MSKs, and the workplace may have little to do with it. "People forget how common musculoskeletal problems are," Prof Anthony Woolf, a rheumatologist at the Royal Cornwall Hospital, told the BBC.

Taken from BBC News Business 25/02/14 bbc.co.uk/news/business



 
 
 

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