Press release in response to new EU study:
Prevention is the key as new study highlights €240 billion annual cost of back pain and other MSDs
A new EU-wide study by The Work Foundation (www.theworkfoundation.org) has found that musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) such as back pain, neck pain and RSI-type conditions, account for nearly half (49%) of all absences from work and 60% of permanent work incapacity in the European Union.
The estimated cost to society in Europe is up to €240 billion every year, with 100 million European citizens suffering the misery of serious MSDs. Of course, these figures do not take into account the pain, misery and costs associated with the much larger number of people who suffer back pain and other ill-health without seeking treatment.
The research suggests that prevention and early intervention in MSDs ultimately reduces the burden on governments’ health and disability budgets, improves the lives of citizens, and improves employees’ performance. It suggests that governments consider more than simply the up-front costs of medical expenditure and incorporates wider socio-economic considerations – such as work productivity – into the financial and medical evaluations for preventing and treating MSDs.
Office back pain expert Dr Philip Worthington, inventor of PostureMinder, an award-winning posture correction and well-being software application, agrees: “This pan-European study reinforces previous national surveys that have highlighted the scale and cost of MSDs. It’s a real wake-up call, and the message is clear: prevention and early intervention are key.”
“It’s simply not feasible to treat 100 million people for back pain and other MSDs every year. We have to start trying to get these numbers down by addressing the causes, before people reach the stage where it starts to affect their work or they need to seek expensive treatment.”
In response to the study’s findings the EU is launching a pan-European Fit For Work campaign which calls for coordinated action from policymakers, healthcare professionals, patients and employers.
PostureMinder is an award-winning software package developed to promote good posture and healthy working habits amongst computer users, both at home and work. Its key innovation is to use any low-cost webcam, such as those built in to most modern laptops or purchased for video conferencing, to automatically detect the user’s posture. Whenever the computer user sits in a damaging posture for a prolonged period, a friendly on-screen reminder appears to encourage them to correct it. This helps directly reduce time spent in damaging postures, and gradually helps the user break their poor posture habits.
PostureMinder also includes comprehensive ergonomic training materials, reminders to take short breaks – or switch to non-computer-based tasks – at recommended intervals, plus video-guided stretch exercises and a hydration tool to encourage good hydration throughout the working day. PostureMinder is available for home, work or educational use, and won a 2007 British Safety Industry Federation Innovation Award. It can be used preventatively, or as a part of a rehabilitation programme for existing sufferers of back or neck pain, RSI and other computer-related health conditions.
Back pain and MSD statistics:
As more and more people move from manufacturing jobs to working in an office, many commentators expected the prevalence of MSDs to go down, but that’s not been seen to be the case.
Long hours spent at a computer keyboard, both at work and home, combined with the more general problems of lack of exercise and obesity, have had the opposite effect.
Recent surveys by the British Chiropractic Association have shown an alarming increase in back pain amongst children, with 45% of 11-18 year olds reported to suffer back pain in the 2008 survey, a 55% increase in just 6 years on the 29% figure found in an identical survey in 2002. The most significant change during that period has been the growth in social networking websites, which has led to a large increase in computer use by children in recent years.
Previous studies have shown that 80% of Americans will seek treatment for back pain in their lifetimes.
The main preventative measure for office workers in the UK has been requirement to train computer-based staff under the Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992. However, the Health and Safety Executive’s 2007 report into the effectiveness of these regulations found that half of UK companies do not provide the required training, and that in any event such training had not significantly reduced the incidence of MSDs amongst UK office staff.