Looking after yourself and each other

Musculoskeletal Health

May’s Health and Wellbeing focus is Musculoskeletal Health

The statistics

  • Over 20 million people in the UK, almost one third of the population, have a MSK condition such as arthritis or back pain.
  • An estimated 480,000 people in the UK suffer from work-related musculoskeletal disorders.
  • 49,000 construction workers suffer new back injuries every year.

  • 1 in 3 employees in the UK have long term health conditions.

May’s Health and Wellbeing topic is about understanding and supporting your musculoskeletal (MSK) system which includes your bones, cartilage, ligaments, tendons and connective tissues. You can find guidance about manual handling at work on the HSE website.

Why is musculoskeletal health important?

Poor MSK health has a huge impact on people, their employers, the NHS and the wider economy. In fact, over 30 million working days are lost due to MSK conditions every year in the UK and they account for up to 30% of GP consultations in England.

People are living longer with complex MSK conditions – for many people a longer life will mean more years spent in ill health. By 2030, over 15.3 million people in the UK will be over 65 years of age, resulting in an ever-increasing demand on MSK services.

MSK conditions are more common in areas of greater poverty and may affect some ethnic groups more than others. If you suffer from a MSK condition how you access and experience care can also vary.


Having arthritis or another MSK condition impacts a person’s life in numerous ways.

It can impact on a person’s ability to work. People with arthritis are 20% less likely to be in work than someone without arthritis and in 2021 23.3M working days were lost due to MSK conditions.

People with arthritis and MSK conditions often take medicines to help manage their symptoms, in 2021-2022 around 30 million prescriptions were dispensed for MSK conditions and joint diseases in England, costing approximately £151 million.

Click on the images to watch and download guidance to help you prevent  and manage MSK conditions.

Workplace ergonomics

Good posture techniques

Top nutrition tips for healthy bones and joints

Caring for your back

1. Exercising
Walking, swimming and using exercise bikes are all excellent ways to strengthen your back muscles.

2. Bending
Always bend your knees, not your back.

3. Lifting
Learn to lift heavy objects using the correct lifting technique.   

4. Carrying
Carry larger loads in a rucksack using both shoulder straps and avoid sling bags.

5. Posture
Maintain a good posture. Avoid slumping in your chair or hunching over a desk.

6. Be active
Try to take a short break from sitting every 30 minutes.

7. Stop smoking
It is thought smoking reduces the blood supply to discs between the vertebrae and may lead to these degenerating.

8. Lose weight
Lose any excess weight and ensure you are a healthy weight for your height.

Your stories

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If you have any feedback or if you would like to contribute to the next issue please let us know!