A new section on musculoskeletal health, better known as soft tissue health, made its debut in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) recently released manual, Worksite Health ScoreCard Manual. Soft tissue health is now among the critical issues determining an effective health promotion program. The CDC ScoreCard is designed to help employers identify gaps, and prioritize high-impact strategies to promote employee health and well-being. According to the CDC, worksite health promotion and wellness programs are essential to maintaining a healthy workforce – and we couldn’t agree more!
The Hard Truth about Soft Tissue Injury
By including soft tissue health in the ScoreCard, the CDC recognizes that maintaining soft tissue wellness is crucial. Soft tissue injuries and illnesses account for more healthcare spending than any other single health condition and are the largest single category of workplace injury, accounting for 28% of all occupational injuries. In fact, soft tissue injuries are the most common and most expensive injuries, estimated at costing $874 billion in treatment. It’s about time that price tag and importance of soft tissue wellness grabbed a few headlines and the spotlight.
Not only are soft tissue injuries a major drain on workplace healthcare spending, they are particularly prevalent among older workers, and because the workforce is aging, preventing these soft tissue injuries are more important than ever before. With one out of every four workers over the age of 55 and with employees beginning to work well past traditional retirement age, programs targeted at preventing and alleviating soft tissue issues need to be restructured to accommodate the aging workforce.
Soft Tissue Prevention Improves Productivity
More and more employers are focusing on prevention through education, modified duty jobs, counseling to reduce reinjury, and ergonomic reviews, just to name a few. Research shows that coordinated and sustained effort to reduce muscle, joint, tendon, ligament and nerve injuries/illnesses across the workforce improves availability and productivity. In fact, employers are embracing a broader perspective on soft tissue issues. It’s not just about workplace injury prevention anymore. It now includes maintaining and improving overall employee soft tissue health, which in turn supports many other disease prevention and wellness initiatives
Here are six things you can do today to focus on soft tissue wellness:
Consider treating soft tissue issues onsite to make staying at work or returning to work easier and efficient. An onsite program is a tangible benefit and can help with recruiting and retention.
Design programs that educate and encourage employees to speak up when discomfort first appears
Consider bringing a physical therapist onsite for early intervention. An expert in the field that can help reduce injury severity and chronicity.
Rethink and realign your program for different generations to relieve soft tissue injury, with advice in work techniques and adjustments in heights, weights, and distances for tasks
Analyze your data. Consider a predictive model to determine where soft tissue strains are coming from to get ahead of injuries in the workplace. Use your data and industry data to find the right mix of prevention and treatment services.
Determine how soft tissue issues fits into your total worker health program. Pain on the job goes home, and pain at home comes to work. Broaden your wellness program to show you care about the whole life. Help with work and home-related aches and pains, improves overall employee health on both the work and home front.
WorkWell offers a suite of services that focus on soft tissue wellness and augments existing wellness programs, safety initiatives and medical services. Contact WorkWell today and be on your way to increasing workforce availability by reducing soft tissue injury and illness frequency and severity.