Virtual treatment can offer the first line of defense against MSDs, argues Richard Kruckeberg.
According to the Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, half of the American population suffers from a musculoskeletal disorder. That number is staggering, and triggers alarms that these injuries could be huge latent risks within companies. Musculoskeletal disorders are a major diagnosis in industrial injuries accounting for 32% of work injuries(1), $576 billion in direct cost from 2004-2006 and up to $373 billion in indirect cost(2).
However, now consider that up to 85% of musculoskeletal disorders are not reported due to fear of lost time, wages or retribution. This can cost up to 18% of the employees’ salary to the employer in lost productivity. Keeping employees healthy can save 3-4% off the top(3). Ministering to this health issue may be as straight forward as specific effective exercise activity has be shown to be a viable approach to caring for this costly condition improving pain perception, function and quality of life.(4) The question is how to reach those non-reporting employees and effectively care for them so as to reduce absenteeism and increase presenteeism. Presenteeism is being at work but unwell, which can cost $6,000/year for every 100 employees.
How tech can help
As is happening in so many facets of our lives, technology is becoming the solution. Consider that internet technology can be used to address many things, why not MSDs? This technology-based intervention can be addressed anonymously and anywhere/anytime providing individualized solutions(5).
In fact, Pew Research reports 77% of the US population own a smart phone, indicating applications regarding health should be a “click” away and have a great impact. Utilization of social media and cell phones can provide timely reminders to perform exercises that may prevent injury on or off the job. Engaging employees on this front is critical to increase accessibility, convenience and risk management capabilities.
This approach to services has demonstrated to be effective. A December 2019 study showed internet-based physical therapy is more effective versus simply written instruction(6) with a 60% improvement in low back pain via internet-based exercises in one such program(7).
These virtual treatments are becoming more successful, accepted and realistic, offering effective treatment options every day. Although it is not a solution for all issues, look for internet programs to create a first line of accessibility for employee’s health.
- BLS November 10, 2016 USDL 16-2130
- Musculoskeletal Disorders,and performance: Workforce Health and Productivity in the United States, Summers K, Jinnett K, Bevan S White Paper, The Center for Workplace Health and Performance –Lancaster University 2015
- Under-reporting of work-related disorders in the workplace- a case study and review of the literature, Pransky G, Snyder T, et al Ergonomics, 42(1) 1999 171-182
- Effective treatment Options for Musculoskeletal pain in primary care: A Systematic Overview of Current Evidence, Babatunde T, Jordan J, PLoS 2017 12(6) e0178621
- Effectiveness of a Technology –Based Injury Prevention Program for Enhancing Mother’s Knowledge of Child Safety , Eysenbach, JMIR Research Protocols. 2016 Oct-Dec 5(4); e205
- A 6- Week Web-Based Osteoarthritis Treatment Program: Observational Quasi-Experimental Study, Kloek, Jiang J Med Internet Res. 2017 , Dec 19 (12): e422
- Reanalysis of Tailed Web-based exercise programme for office workers with sub-acute low back pain: 2016Assessing the stage of change in behavior, del Pozo-Cruz et al, Psychology, Health& Medicine, 2013 , Vol 18, No. 6, 687-697