Musculoskeletal (MSK) conditions are one of the most common causes of dysfunction and missed work days in the US. As companies shift to remote and hybrid working setups, access to high quality MSK care is becoming more difficult for employers to reliably provide. Enter virtual MSK care.
Injuries and conditions involving bones, joints, and muscles, referred to as musculoskeletal (MSK) conditions, are extremely common in the US and affect approximately 1 in 2 adults annually. Take, for example, lower back pain. We’ve all heard about it, likely know someone that’s had it, or have had it ourselves at some point. That’s because an estimated 80% of people in the US will experience lower back pain at some point in their life!
MSK conditions are one of the most common causes of dysfunction and missed work days in the US. An estimated 29% of employees report missing work due to MSK-related pain each year. MSK care is also a top three area of healthcare spend for large companies in the US. So while some may describe MSK conditions as “just” aches and pains, they’re in fact extremely debilitating for employers and individuals alike.
As companies shift to remote and hybrid working setups, access to high quality MSK care is becoming more difficult for employers to reliably provide. Additionally, poor working setups for people working from home offices further increases the risk of developing painful conditions.
As access challenges rise, the need to have high-quality specialist care available for employees is becoming more acute. The majority of primary care physicians report they do not feel comfortable diagnosing and managing MSK conditions. Individuals suffering from chronic pain will wait an average of 2 years before receiving an accurate diagnosis, and often go through unnecessary and costly procedures like injection therapy and surgery.
Enter virtual MSK care. Virtual MSK care provided via telehealth helps your employees conquer physical wellness challenges so they can live freely without pain and continue to be productive at the workplace. A specialist multidisciplinary telehealth practice can provide easy access to specialist physicians, physical therapists, and health coaches from the comfort of the employee’s home or the workplace itself.
The virtual care model allows an employee to see a physician within 24 hrs and get a treatment plan consisting of safe, non-opioid pain medications sent right to their doorstep. They can receive virtual ergonomic evaluations of their workspace (at home or the office) and tailored exercise plans from a licensed physical therapist. On top of that, a physical wellness benefit can provide weekly, dedicated onsite clinic hours for those on a hybrid schedule and requiring in person care.
Virtual MSK clinics will even provide injury prevention screening to ensure employees get good information about decreasing the risk of developing these costly conditions.
Let’s consider a common scenario: Ongoing aches and pains arising for desk workers.
Desk workers develop lower back and other muscle and joint pain due to long periods of time spent sitting in a suboptimal workplace setup. Lack of movement and poor posture leads to excessive pressure being placed on the muscles and joints in the body, resulting in pain.
Virtual, preventative ergonomic evaluations by licensed physical therapists are key in preventing pain from occurring in the first place.
Some simple, yet effective injury prevention strategies include:
-Ensuring your employees workstations are appropriately and safely set up. Recommending good quality ergonomic equipment like sit-to-stand desks and keyboard/mouse set ups
-Delivering personalized stretch breaks and physical therapy programs to improve flexibility and strength
-Sending equipment like foam rollers, massage guns, and resistance bands directly to your employee’s home to help build long- term healthy habits.
-Providing educational material like daily ergonomic/posture checklists and online master courses on injury prevention and management to boost your employees’ knowledge bases and resilience.
We’ve been mostly talking about office workers so far. Unsurprisingly, more labor intensive roles place your employees at an even greater risk for MSK injury. Educating your workforce on best safety practices during shifts, equipment to improve safety while on the job, and proper body mechanics during repetitive tasks and heavy lifting will all help keep service workers, laborers, and warehouse staff healthy and happy.
An injury prevention screening led by a licensed physical therapist will provide targeted exercise programs to lower risk of injury and make sure workers are fit for the job. Consistent check- ins and follow up from clinicians will ensure employees avoid injury and recover quickly when accidents happen.
Overall, costly occupational MSK conditions are largely preventable and can be treated more effectively with early access to the right group of healthcare professionals. Multidisciplinary care is the key to ensure that all aspects of pain and physical wellness are addressed.
Utilizing a virtual, multidisciplinary MSK clinic offers unmatched access to top- notch specialists allowing your employees to get the most effective care when they need it most. Implementing evidence- based ergonomic strategies provided by licensed physical therapists can be extremely helpful in preventing injury and pain.
While providing direct access to preventional and interventional MSK care for employees helps drive down work comp claims and overall cost of care, ultimately a physical wellness benefit allows companies to invest in their employees’ quality of life. You know you have a great MSK benefit when your MSK clinical partner goes beyond the workplace and helps employees in all areas of their life, promoting healthy habits and exercise routines to improve your employee’s overall physical wellness at work and also at home.
Ensuring employees are physically healthy allows them to not only remain productive at the workplace, but also enjoy social and recreational activities outside of work that are integral to their overall wellbeing and happiness. Happier employees lead to increased productivity and lower net spend on care. As the workplace changes, make sure that your physical wellness benefit changes with it!
By the way, I love chatting about MSK care and telehealth, so please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to ask me any questions or speak further about physical wellness benefits!
Jake Bagley, Doctor of Physical Therapy
Head of Physical Therapy