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About MSDs

The European Commission estimates that MSDs account for 50 per cent of all absences from work lasting three days or longer and for 60 per cent of permanent work capacity (European Commission, 2007)

Chronic diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis and lower back pain, are responsible for keeping thousands of people off work across Europe.

Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) is an umbrella term covering over 200 conditions that affect the muscles, joints, tendons, ligaments, peripheral nerves and supporting blood vessels, causing pain and functional impairment to sufferers. (PUNNETT et al, 2004)

The impact of MSDs goes beyond the immediate physical symptoms; the diseases also have an impact on a sufferer's self-esteem, family life, and financial situation. Early diagnosis and intervention can help sufferers of MSDs to stay fit and stay in work longer, which will have not only a positive impact on them, but also on Europe’s economy and society in general.

• Up to 80% of the adult population will be affected by an MSD at some time in their life (WHO 2003)
• Up to 40% of sufferers are out of work at some time in their life. (BEVAN et al, 2007)

Impact and costs:
• Total cost associated with MSDs are estimated in many billion Euros and include direct, indirect and tangible costs
• Direct costs of MSDs include the cost of prevention, detection, treatment, rehabilitation and long term care
• Indirect costs of MSDs include lost work output attributable to a reduced capacity for activity, lost productivity, lost earnings, lost opportunities for family members and lost tax revenue
• Intangible costs include psychosocial burden resulting in reduced quality of life, such as job stress, economic stress, family stress and suffering

Intervention / solutions:
• Early intervention is crucial to individual recovery and self-management; it may contribute to reduced number of working days lost and reduced productivity caused by MSDs
• Patients need clinical guidance to learn practical self-management to help deal with symptoms, rather than only relieve symptoms with medicine
• Healthcare providers can offer support to help sufferers live with the disease and its consequences
• Employers should be aware of the symptoms, such as periodic 'flares' of inflammation and severe pain so they can adopt a helpful approach to return to work and can play an active role in helping workers to stay at work by offering rehabilitation and return to work services
• Policy-makers need to recognise the economic and social benefits of early intervention and make provision within their healthcare systems

• Bevan, S., Passmore, E., Mahdon, M. (2007). Fit for Work? Musculoskeletal Disorders and Labour Market Participation. UK: The Work Foundation
• European Commission (2007)
• European Parliament (2005). Working Together for Growth and Jobs, Communication to the Spring European Council - Com (2005) 24
• European Parliament (2008). Together for Health: A Strategic Approach for the EU 2008-2013. European Parliament Resolution of 9 October 2008 - P6_ta(2008)0477
• HSE (2007). Self-Reported Work-Related Illness Module of the Labour Force Survey 2005/06. Health and Safety Executive
• Punnett, l., Wegman, d. (2004). Work-related Musculoskeletal Disorders: The Epidemiologic Evidence and the Debate. Journal of Electromyography and Kinesiology, 14 (1), 13-23
• WHO Scientific Group (2003). The Burden of Musculoskeletal Conditions at the Start of the New Millennium. Geneva: WHO