Stay supple and you can reduce the risk of body aches
Aches and pains, particularly when it comes to muscles and joints, aren't always a sign of something sinister. But these common complaints can develop into heftier problems, especially if left untreated.
A whopping 31 million work days are lost every year in the UK as a result of such musculoskeletal issues, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), with it being the number one cause of workplace absence. Despite this, a third (30%) of people do not see these conditions as a serious problem.
In fact, a recent survey by Bupa found that we're all being a bit blasé when it comes to our everyday muscle, joint and bone aches, with a lot of us just "soldiering on in silence".
More than half of adults in the UK (58%) say they have experienced muscle, bone or joint pain (such as back pain or arthritis) at some point in their lives.
But the findings from Bupa reveal that one in four people (23%) are taking a "grin and bear it" approach, admitting they would wait at least a month before seeing their GP about the pain, while one in five (20%) go as far to say that it's unlikely they would speak to a doctor about it at all.
Women in particular were less likely to seek help from their GP about muscle, bone or joint pain, with more than a quarter (28%) saying they would wait a month or more to see a doctor about these conditions, compared to 18% of men.
Katherine Cran, physiotherapist at Bupa, says musculoskeletal issues are frequently the result of bad posture and a lack of movement - often due to desk-bound working, but also from sitting anywhere for too long.
"It's worrying that so many people are affected by muscle, bone and joint pain," she says.
"While most pain can be managed through rest and light exercise, if the pain is severe, if you're worried or if you are also suffering from other symptoms, always seek medical advice."
How are we coping?
While many people avoid troubling their GP about muscle, bone and joint paint, Bupa's research also reveals a significant number of British adults are open to seeking alternative treatments or exercises to help.
- More than a third (37%) said they would consider alternative therapies, such as yoga or going to the gym.
- A third (33%) said they would manage their condition with painkillers, rather than see their GP.
- One in four (25%) people would recommend treating muscle, bone or joint pain with home remedies, such as hot baths.
Five top tips for staying supple
We could all benefit from a few simple actions to help keep joints supple and pain at bay. Katherine Cran suggests incorporating these things into your day:
- In the morning and afternoon, reach your arms across your body to stretch out your shoulders and to keep your shoulder blades moving - this will help your posture.
- Help keep your joints mobile and prevent stiffness by doing some simple exercises and stretches throughout the day such as gently rotating your ankles, lifting your knees and extending your legs.
- Avoid sitting for too long - try a mixture of standing and sitting throughout the day, such as standing while taking phone calls, or by suggesting standing or walking meetings to your colleagues.
- Generally try and increase the amount of physical activity that you do during the day, whether it's during your commute and walking a little bit further to the workplace, walking around the block at lunchtime or committing to taking the stairs, rather than the lift.
- Make sure you think about your posture while sitting or standing - move any equipment that you need, such as telephones, keyboards or your computer mouse, so that they're within easy reach and at a comfortable height to avoid any awkward stretching.