February 24, 2024

Preventing and resolving MSK issues: the do’s and don’ts

Modern life can be a pain in the neck. Quite literally. Due to busy lifestyles, it can be incredibly easy to ignore the common minor aches and pains we live with on a daily basis.

With a third of the UK population reported to be living with a musculoskeletal (MSK) condition it is time to take active steps to not only solve these problems but also prevent them from developing in the first place.

Commonly overlooked MSK struggles

Between jobs that require standing for 12 hours a day or, conversely, desk jobs that demand eight hours of sitting, it's no surprise that approximately 1 in 6 people in England live with back pain – the most prevalent MSK issue experienced by individuals. And beyond back pain, injuries related to biomechanics (i.e. the forces that act on the body) and movement are also extremely common.

One example of this is repetitive strain issues that gradually develop, over time, from repeating similar movements or tasks. The continuous repetition of certain movements can irritate tendons (the ends of muscles that connect to bones) resulting in long term MSK issues.

However, not all MSK issues are rooted in excessive movement or biomechanical forces. The third most common are injuries that relate to inactivity – yes you can develop an MSK condition from not moving.

Our bodies are inherently designed for movement, and are capable of a wide variety of movements or “range of motions”.  Nevertheless, prolonged periods of static or inactive postures – a symptom of our modern, sedentary lifestyles – can lead to adaptations within the body that negatively impact the variety and quality of movements we can perform. Whilst no one posture is ‘bad’ for us, sustained postures without a ‘posture break’ can lead to discomfort that lingers for far too long, often around the lower back, head/neck, shoulders, and shoulder blades.

The phrase "wear and tear" is often used to describe the natural 'state' of repair our bodies are in. As we age, the process of building and repairing structures within our muscles, joints, bones, and ligaments becomes less efficient giving rise to conditions such as osteoarthritis, another key and common driver of pain.

All of these often start as minor problems, but if left untreated can result in longer term chronic pain that is challenging to recover from completely.

Physiotherapy’s role in preventing major concerns

Preventing and tackling many muscle and joint issues is not difficult. Much of this pain can often be relieved with simple exercises or small lifestyle adjustments. The key to reaping the full benefits of these measures lies in seeking the right help and advice as early as possible.

It’s well known that delays in treatment can result in poorer outcomes in the long run. Enter physiotherapy: a crucial gateway to a better and speedier recovery when it comes to muscle and joint problems.

Instead of simply addressing symptoms, physiotherapy focuses on both fixing the cause and relieving pain. When administered effectively, it has the capacity to promptly alleviate symptoms while laying the groundwork for long-term preventative measures.

The expertise of physiotherapists means that they are able to diagnose the problem and guide individuals towards the most effective care pathway for their optimal recovery. Through personalised rehabilitation programs, tailored to individual needs and goals, physiotherapists not only facilitate recovery but also reduce the risk of further conditions presenting in the future.

The mental benefits of incorporating physiotherapy into daily routine

Whenever we make a proactive choice in relation to our physical health, there are compounding psychological benefits.

Physiotherapy and exercise are both linked to multiple mental health benefits. Research indicates that they contribute to reduced stress and anxiety, mood enhancement and improved self-esteem. Exercise alone has been shown to boost energy and quality of sleep. Both of these factors have a link to our perceived ability to cope with pain and the challenges life throws our way.

Living in pain can very quickly dishearten us. Engaging in activities that help manage and reduce this pain will result in an overall improvement to both physical and psychological health.  

Easy tips to implement at home or at work

The simplest thing you can do in managing pain and preventing MSK conditions is to take steps to increase your overall activity levels.

Minor lifestyle adjustments, like walking more, can have a significant impact when it comes to preventing MSK conditions. If you add it all up, walking 10,000 steps a day means you will walk 70 marathons over the course of one year!

Breaks from sitting are very helpful too. Long periods of sitting in the same position are not beneficial for your back or overall health, so make it a habit to get up from your seat regularly.

Here are some top tips that you may find useful:

  1. Desk exercises: Perform exercises at your desk such as leg lifts, sit-to-stands for one minute, and desk push ups, to keep your body moving during the workday.
  1. Movement alerts: Use apps or set movement alerts on your phone to remind yourself to take short, active breaks throughout the day – every hour or so, if possible.
  1. Dress for activity: Dress in activewear to mentally prepare for a workout during breaks or after work. Or take your kit into work with you.
  1. Use breaks wisely: Use breaks for short workouts or to engage in physical activities like walking, standing more, or stretching.
  1. Schedule workouts: Plan and schedule specific times during your week for workouts, and treat them as important appointments.
  1. Choose being active: Take the stairs where possible, during your commute get off a stop earlier, or walk as fast as you can when walking. Also, arrange walking meetings or phone calls which you can take on the move

If you have sustained an MSK injury, Phio gives you access to quality care – where and when you need it.