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Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) are the second most common cause of disability worldwide.1 Among people of working age, musculoskeletal conditions, including back pain, neck pain, upper limb disorders and arthritis account for almost a quarter of all sickness absence. Furthermore, MSDs contribute even more significantly to presenteeism (the reduction in working performance while at work because of ill health) and impaired in-work productivity (although these are more challenging to quantify accurately). Indeed, it is estimated that the total cost of lost productivity attributable to MSDs among people of working age in the European Union (EU) might be as high as 2% of gross domestic product.2 For these reasons, we urgently need to develop effective strategies to identify those individuals with recent-onset musculoskeletal pain or injury at greatest risk of long-term work disability and to develop effectual and cost-effective preventive and treatment interventions.
For these reasons, the paper by Armijo-Olivo and colleagues in this edition3 reports an important development enhancing our understanding of those …
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