Understanding the Missing Piece in Your Rising Healthcare Costs Puzzle

by Kathleen Gramzay

In seeking a solution to a longstanding problem, it’s common to grasp the familiar pieces and reason that if they can be adjusted, adapted or shaved down surely the puzzle can be solved.

When it comes to rising healthcare costs, there is a puzzle piece worth understanding that can significantly change the shape and direction of your company’s health and well-being.

Many companies are seeing the benefits of providing nutrition and exercise programs in which a percentage of their population participates. However, for many individuals with Musculoskeletal Disorders (“MSDs”), it is difficult to be productive, participate in a company challenge or even make the best food choices when it’s painful to think or move.

The Leading Cause of Disability/Healthcare Cost

Musculoskeletal Disorders is the largest category of chronic medical conditions, accounting for the greatest loss of productivity, absenteeism and healthcare costs, and a significant portion of workers compensation claims.

One in two — or 126.6 million — adults is affected by MSDs, according to the U. S. Bone and Joint Initiative: The Burden of Musculoskeletal Diseases in the United States (BMUS), Third Edition, 2014. Rosemont, IL. (www.boneandjointburden.org). That’s twice the rate of those with chronic heart and lung conditions, and seven times the 18.8 million diagnosed with diabetes.

Musculoskeletal Disorders encompass conditions and injuries related to the bones, joints, muscles, tendons, ligaments and connective tissue (also known as fascia). The chronic pain often associated with them makes it difficult to focus or function.

The Impact of Musculoskeletal Injuries:

  • 77% (65.8 million) – Leading cause of all injury-related health care visits
  • $176.9 Billion – Annual cost of treatment (2011)
  • 397 Million – Number of prescriptions filled for MSDs (2011)
  • 70% (216.5 million days) – Self-reported lost work days due to MSDs
  • 30% (284,000) of work-related injuries due to MSDs with an average of eleven lost work days

Compounded Pain for Business

For employers, the economic burden from lost work days is first compounded by the price of absenteeism and lost productivity, estimated to be $225.8 billion or $1,685 per employee, according to the CDC, International Monetary Fund.

When the multi-year economic impact of increased workers compensation insurance premiums triggered by claims of seven days or more is added in, that burden is exponentially compounded.

Common Injury and Number of Lost Days

Of those in the table below, these soft-tissue MSDs have a big impact on business:

  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome – 27 days
  • Tendonitis – 10 days
  • Sprains & Strains – 10 days
  • Soreness & Pain – 8 days
  • Back Pain – 7 days
  • Musculoskeletal Disorders – 11 days (includes soft tissue conditions)

Back and neck pain at 35 percent, and musculoskeletal and connective tissue conditions at 17 percent, respectively, account for more than half of all lost work days.

Focusing on soft-tissue-related MSDs and injuries (the back, neck, and musculoskeletal injury subcategories) is significant because the scope of their impact is wide, and they have the greatest potential for positive change through self-care.

The Costs of Traditional Treatment

MSDs have traditionally been treated with rest, over-the-counter or prescription drugs, and/or surgery. Traditional treatment looks outside the body for correction and pain relief.

The cost of prescription drug treatment for MSDs is crippling both in financial and societal terms. Direct dollar costs have skyrocketed to 210 percent, and half of the 2016 opioid-related deaths were due to prescribed opioids.

It’s clear a different solution is needed.

The Solution Exists in a Different Puzzle Piece

As current wellness programs target the underlying factors of diet and exercise to reduce their correlated health conditions, so can the underlying chronic tension patterns that cause soft tissue-related musculoskeletal disorders be released and health restored without the systemic side effects of pharmaceuticals.

A self-care wellness program that targets the underlying cause of musculoskeletal soft-tissue conditions to release chronic musculoskeletal pain and tension and restores the body’s normal tone and mobility without drugs or office visits takes “wellness” to a deeper level. Not only does it empower individuals with the ability to partner with their own body for prevention, faster healing, cost reduction and increased productivity, it fills in a missing piece of the healthcare puzzle.

Kathleen Gramzay, BCTMB, is a speaker, author, developer & national continuing education provider of Kinessage®. She is a soft tissue & movement specialist serving wellness conscious businesses & their employees to live more productive, joyful lives

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