Musculoskeletal conditions (MSKs) are chronic problems that affect the bones, joints, muscle and soft tissue.

According to the World Health Organisation, these conditions are one of the leading causes of disability, with 1.7 billion people affected worldwide. They can severely limit someone’s mobility and dexterity.

Without adequate prevention, treatment and reasonable adjustments, MSK may lead to lower levels of wellbeing and difficulties with managing everyday tasks.

There are three types of MSK conditions:

  • Conditions of MSK pain, such as osteoarthritis and back pain
  • Inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis
  • Osteoporosis and fragility fractures, for example, a fracture after a fall

If you are experiencing back, joint or muscle pain, you should discuss this with a healthcare professional such as your doctor. The earlier a problem is reported, the easier it is to deal with.

A number of at-home treatments may be beneficial including staying active, relaxation techniques (such as these breathing exercises) or using hot and cold packs. You should speak to your doctor if you require medication.

Initiatives such as Healthy Workplaces suggest that employees should have open and honest conversations with their employer about MSKs. This will help employers to take preventative action or make reasonable adjustments within the workplace.

Simple adjustments can include:

  • Finding alternative ways of doing tasks

  • Taking regular, short breaks

  • Flexible working hours or working from home

  • Adapting equipment e.g. sit-stand desk, using machinery to lift heavy objects

  • Taking time to move and stretch during the day.

  • Musculoskeletal Health: All Our HealthThis guide is part of ‘All Our Health’, a resource that helps health and care professionals prevent ill health and promote wellbeing as part of their everyday practice.

  • Productive healthy ageing and musculoskeletal (MSK) health: This resource for health professionals and local authorities makes the case for action to support healthy productive later life.

  • Mental Health and MSK health: Learn how some common mental health conditions and symptoms have an impact on musculoskeletal health. 

  • NHS Toolkit: Managing Persistent Pain: The Pain Toolkit is a simple information booklet that could provide you with some handy tips and skills to support you along the way to manage your pain.

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