Two leading medical research bodies announce a major new research centre to tackle the impact of musculoskeletal disorders on people's ability to work.
Researchers at the 1.4m Arthritis Research UK/MRC Centre for Musculoskeletal Health and Work, led by the University of Southampton, aim to find cost-effective ways of reducing the impact of conditions that affect the muscles, joints and bones on people's employment and productivity, with benefits for patients, employers and society as a whole.
"Musculoskeletal conditions are a major cause of sickness absence and job loss. We're enormously excited about our new centre which we hope will lead to new ways of preventing their occurrence, and helping employees who are affected to stay in productive work," said Director of the new centre Professor David Coggon.
The centre will focus its research on the three main musculoskeletal causes of work disability - back, neck and arm pain, osteoarthritis and inflammatory arthritis. A special theme will be the impact of these conditions on older people who are approaching normal retirement age.
"We're planning a number of specific research projects that could have important impacts on policy and on the management of musculoskeletal disorders in the workplace," added Centre Deputy Director Dr. Karen Walker-Bone.
The research projects include, investigating whether a social media and internet campaign to spread positive messages about how best to manage back pain, can improve outcomes for patients, Working with GPs and employers to improve the effectiveness of the new GP 'fit note' which has replaced the sick note, developing guidelines for patients undergoing surgery for conditions such as knee osteoarthritis and carpal tunnel syndrome on when they should return to work, and what their subsequent levels of activity in the workplace should be, and finding out whether working to an older age is good or bad for health, and in what circumstances.