Ortholive remote injury care's telemedicine for employers replaces ER visits with virtual medical care

Stress wreaks havoc on our bodies and may be impacting the productivity of your workforce. According to recent scientific data, work-related stress weakens our musculoskeletal system and contributes to sickness. People who experience stress at work are often more susceptible to spine and back injuries, not to mention colds, flu, and chronic diseases–illnesses and injuries that often require time off and raise worker compensation costs. 

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), “Stress affects all systems of the body including the musculoskeletal, respiratory, cardiovascular, endocrine, gastrointestinal, nervous, and reproductive systems.” 

In work environments where musculoskeletal injuries are common, an increase in spine and back-related incidents is an unwanted consequence of stress that employers should prepare for. Understanding the connection between the two can help you reduce the number of bone, joint and muscle injures in your workforce while protecting your bottom line.

How can employers alleviate the impact stress has on their employees while lowering healthcare costs? Read to the end to find out.

Ortholive remote injury care's telemedicine for employers offers onsite care for worksite injuries.

What Is Stress?

Stress is the body’s response to environmental changes and challenges. Although natural, stress can have harmful effects on our mental and musculoskeletal health. Keep in mind that there are also different types of stress. While short-term stress can inspire us to work harder, long-term or chronic stress can lead to illness and injury, diminishing our ability to work.

There are three types of stress:

  • Acute Stress – An immediate, short-term reaction that the body quickly recovers from (e.g., the stress caused by loud noises and near-misses)
  • Episodic Acute Stress – When momentary episodes of short-term stress occur frequently (e.g., the stress experienced by people working in high-intensity/high stake environments like hospital ERs and factories)
  • Chronic Stress – Constant and inescapable anxiety (e.g., the stress caused by lingering uncertainty or constant environmental conditions, such as living in a high-crime area or working a dangerous job) 

While we don’t completely understand the connections between stress and illness, there seems to be a correlation between the body’s stress response, inflammation, and musculoskeletal weaknesses.

Ortholive remote injury care's telemedicine for employers offers onsite care for injured employees

How Does the Body React to Stress?

Emotional or physical stress causes the body’s nervous system to go into overdrive. This activates a fight-or-flight response, which in turn creates physiological responses that prepare the body to defend itself or run away. During a stressful event, you may experience:

  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Increased heart and pulse rate
  • Muscle tension
  • Nausea
  • Rapid breathing
  • Shortness of breath

Many of these symptoms are caused by cortisol, a hormone that releases a rush of energy in the form of glucose. Even though many of us don’t live in conditions that require fleeing or fighting, high-stake work environments often provoke a similar stress response that can take its toll on our bodies, making us more prone to work-related injuries. 

Stress-related hormones such as adrenaline, dopamine, and norepinephrine decrease the body’s ability to create the white blood cells (lymphocytes) that fight off bacteria and viruses.

When stress becomes chronic, cortisol levels remain high. All that glucose (sugar) can lead to chronic musculoskeletal issues and illnesses that require frequent medical attention and costly healthcare bills. 

Studies show chronic stress diminishes the immune system’s ability to fight off viruses and infections. The Washington Post says, “Scientists now think that immune overdrive, especially chronic high inflammation, explains why stress is linked to aging-related diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer.”

There is also clear data showing that stress leads to inflammation and bone disease. A Carnegie Mellon University study says chronic psychological stress skews the body’s ability to regulate the inflammatory response. The hormone cortisol creates inflammation that can cause serious illnesses, including problems with the musculoskeletal system.

Ortholive remote injury care's telemedicine for employers offers onsite care for workplace injuries.

What Happens to the Musculoskeletal System Under Chronic Stress?

Stress causes muscular tension. When the stressful moment passes, the muscles release. However, in a state of constant or chronic stress, our muscles remain tense, causing musculoskeletal tension headaches or lower-back pain. According to the APA, “Muscle tension, and eventually, muscle atrophy due to disuse of the body, all promote chronic, stress-related musculoskeletal conditions.” 

Stress is also intrinsically linked to pain, although we don’t fully understand the connection on a biological level. We do know, however, that if you are stressed out, you are more likely to experience back, neck, and shoulder pain as well as tension headaches. 

In this way, pain and stress directly impact the musculoskeletal system and our ability to function. Our bones are the structural foundation of our body and protect our organs, facilitate movement, and store nutrients. Oftentimes, a weakened musculoskeletal system means a diminished capacity for work. 

Bone tissue is alive and undergoes dynamic change to facilitate bodily functions and adapt to environmental factors. If bone function is disrupted, bone mass diminishes, increasing the risk of fracture. One study showed, “Mental stress also influences bone biology, eventually leading to osteoporosis and increased bone fracture risk.”

Another study determined that the long-term effect of stress on the musculoskeletal system affects the strength of our muscles and bones as we age. The study stated, “Hormones released during stress have a negative metabolic effect on skeletal muscle. Stress can induce an earlier decline in muscle strength which will eventually lead to fall and fracture.” 

The cortisol hormones released during stressful situations inhibit the growth of osteoblasts, the cell that develops into new bone. Bone mass is a fluid process that relies on a balance between new bone growth via the osteoblasts and the removal of old bone through cells called osteoclasts. Cortisol disrupts this process, leading to brittle bones and the disease known as osteoporosis.

Ortholive remote injury care's telemedicine for employers offers onsite care for workplace injuries.

Why Employers Should Care About Stress and the Musculoskeletal System

Musculoskeletal disorders translate to high costs for employers and are one of the main reasons for worker absenteeism, frequent medical visits, disability, and lost productivity. In many cases, these incidents can drive up healthcare costs, increase workers’ compensation costs, and result in more disability cases. 

To put it simply, employee stress in the workplace is a leading contributor of bodily illnesses that limit your employees’ ability to work. 

What can employers do to help employees manage the musculoskeletal affects of stress? Can you reduce healthcare costs and increase productivity by tackling these issues before they turn into serious injuries?

While relaxation techniques may help in some cases, stress is oftentimes part of the job in many workplaces. In these environment, employers should treat the musculoskeletal symptoms of stress head-on to prevent them from developing into costly injury claims. 

OrthoLive provides a simple solution that you can use to treat the musculoskeletal stress experienced by your employees without incurring expensive healthcare claims. 

OrthoLive’s telemedicine service offers employers preventative, chronic, and acute musculoskeletal care, accessible from any device and available 24/7/365. From first aid triage for worksite injuries to tailored preventative and chronic treatment plans, our team can help reduce the costs associated with workplace injuries and improve employee morale.