For Employers

Live webinar: Outwitting the MSK Crisis with Cathryn Jakobson Ramin


[Update] You can watch this webinar on-demand if you register here.

Join us for a conversation with New York Times bestselling author Cathryn Jakobson Ramin, author of Crooked – Outwitting the Back Pain Industry and Getting on the Road to Recovery. We’ll talk about her experience with musculoskeletal pain, her quest to find new, evidence-based solutions, and how Benefits leaders can be agents of change in a broken healthcare system.

In this webinar, you’ll learn:

  • Why MSK is so common, devastating, and costly
  • What works and what doesn’t in managing MSK pain
  • How to take control of your MSK spend and make a real impact on people’s lives

The conversation will be followed by a live Q&A with Cathryn and SWORD’s Chief Medical Officer, Fernando Correia.

About our guest, Cathryn Jakobson Ramin:

As someone who endured persistent back pain for decades, Cathryn is no stranger to MSK issues. In an effort to resolve this problem, she ended up going on a six-year journey through the complexities of the back pain industry. The result was Crooked, the remarkable piece of investigative journalism that we’ll be discussing in this webinar.

Got a question, comment or feedback? Please send them to [email protected]

We hope to see you at the webinar!

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Can’t join us live? Make sure to still register! We’ll send you the recorded video after the webinar for you to watch at your convenience.

For Employers

Tackling the #1 driver of employers’ health costs

The phrase ‘musculoskeletal disorder’ may not ring a bell — but the feeling might. The term refers to any type of pain in the muscles or joints, from chronic pain to injuries to post-surgical pain. Many of us have suffered from a musculoskeletal (MSK) issue at some point in our lives. In fact, one in two Americans is struggling with an MSK condition right now. And it’s causing economic ripples, especially in the workplace.

MSK care is now the highest health cost for employers

All this pain is costing us, in more ways than one. With $190 billion dollars spent every year on musculoskeletal disorders alone, it comes as no surprise they were ranked as the top condition impacting healthcare costs by almost half the participants of the 2020 Large Employers’ Health Care Strategy and Plan Design survey. MSKs were also among the top three cost-driving health conditions of 85% of the employers.

The strain MSKs put on employers and employees is clear. But how exactly do they affect your organization’s health costs? And how can you manage these costs without jeopardizing quality of care? Let’s dive into these questions.

How does MSK care impact medical costs?

The economic burden of MSK results from two types of costs: direct medical costs and indirect costs.

Direct medical costs, as the name suggests, are the costs of treatment, such as surgery, imaging, drugs, and therapy. Indirect costs, on the other hand, typically consist of lost wages, worker replacement, and reduced productivity. Some of these costs – such as the effects of ‘presenteeism’ – are difficult to quantify, but can have a real impact on your company’s performance.

It creates a costly, redundant cycle of surgery, imaging, and pain medication

People struggling with MSK go through a series of distressing events to manage their pain. They typically start off by visiting their primary care doctor, who then refers them to a specialist, and sometimes also prescribes pain-relief medication. The specialist often requires diagnostic imaging to assess the need for surgery. In the end, whether the person goes through surgery or not, physical therapy is frequently the last cumbersome and time-consuming step towards rehabilitation. Alas, their journey seldom ends here, and they find themselves starting it all over again. For example, 20% to 40% of back surgery patients report having the same or increased pain one to two years after their surgery. This phenomenon is so common it even has a name — Failed Back Surgery Syndrome.

The sum total of this vicious cycle amounts to around $190 billion a year in MSK spend alone — and a major slice of this cost pie is on the employer’s plate.

It leads to lengthy sick and disability absences

Between bed days due to chronic pain or days away from work while recovering from surgery, musculoskeletal diseases lead to more lost workdays than any other condition.

MSK accounts for more than 216 million missed workdays, more than four times as many as depression patients. They also report six times as many bed days as people with depression and circulatory conditions, totaling more than 752 million bed days due to back and joint pain.

Add worker’s compensation into the mix, and you can see how these indirect costs can easily amount to millions.

It lowers workplace productivity and quality of life

While absenteeism is a clear consequence of workers’ health problems, workplace presenteeism can be just as insidious.

Presenteeism is the act of showing up for work despite being ill — a behavior often seen in chronic MSK patients. Why they choose to do it is unique to each person, but common reasons include job insecurity, work culture, and job demands.

This phenomenon is not only detrimental to the employee’s wellbeing but also costly to organizations. People are significantly less productive when unwell, and eventually, overall organizational productivity is impacted.

How can we tackle MSK spend?

The challenge in successfully tackling the rising costs of healthcare lies in finding the balance between curbing spend and improving people’s lives. In the past, this hasn’t been easy – and Benefits leaders have had to make tradeoffs. In an effort to find this balance, employers are implementing more virtual care solutions.

SWORD Health is one such solution. SWORD is the first tech-enabled MSK care provider to pair licensed physical therapists with an easy-to-use digital therapist, helping people overcome chronic and post-surgical pain faster and more cost-effectively — and our results speak volumes.

We lower your direct medical costs

Our clinically-validated approach strikes at the root of MSK spend by stopping the costly, ineffective care loop people get into when trying to manage their pain.

By giving people access to best practice care for MSK – exercise, education and coaching – we reduce their risk of multiple surgeries and opioid addiction. Our programs have been proven to reduce surgeries by up to 50% and opioid use by 36%.

And because they can perform their sessions from home, participants no longer have to take time off work, nor do they have to get reimbursed for travel expenses to physical therapy appointments.

We get people back to health faster and better

Because MSK issues lead to more lost workdays than any other condition, getting people back on their feet sooner can have a big impact on your business.

SWORD Health’s programs are highly engaging, showing unprecedented adherence levels. Because they follow their session without fail, they actually recover faster and better.

We help chronic MSK patients outsmart their pain

By providing chronic MSK patients with the right tools to outsmart pain, our solution drastically reduces their pain levels in record time while teaching them how to overcome the pain-related fears that keep them from living their best lives and doing their best work.

A better way to overcome pain, for everyone

When your employees are free from pain, they’re happier, more productive, and contribute to a healthier work environment.

Tackling the MSK problem in your workplace is less of a challenge with the right partner by your side. To learn more about how SWORD Health can help you reduce your MSK costs by as much as 30% and improve your employees’ lives, contact us today.

For Employers

Adding value to employee benefits: how SWORD Health can improve your workforce wellbeing

When we feel supported, we can focus on what matters. This is why employee benefits are so important to keep your team motivated and engaged. And a well-rounded benefits package should anticipate something your workforce will eventually need: musculoskeletal care.

MSKs, the #1 driver of employers’ healthcare costs in the US

In the latest Large Employers’ Health Care Strategy and Plan Design Survey, Musculoskeletal conditions (MSKs) came in at the top spot — above cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular conditions — when participants were asked about specific disease classes driving up their healthcare costs. MSKs include low back, neck and shoulder pain, and hip and knee disorders.

Within the working population, MSKs are responsible for 34% of all lost workdays. Plus, an employee with a musculoskeletal condition costs 2.3x more than a healthy employee. In addition to this financial impact, MSKs take a personal toll on affected workers, from not being able to work to facing the risk of opioid abuse and surgery.

How SWORD Health elevates employee benefits

Along with the need to tackle musculoskeletal conditions in the workplace, 38% of large employers are considering the implementation of virtual solutions for MSK care over the next years. SWORD Health meets both the need and the want, providing the first and only clinically proven digital physical therapy solution that outperforms human therapists, lowers healthcare costs, and keeps patients highly engaged.

We take MSK care to a whole new level

SWORD Health developed the first digital MSK care solution that allows participants to independently perform their sessions at home while being remotely monitored by a clinical team.

At the same time, we foster continuous education and behavioral coaching, so participants not only get better but stay better. We ensure they learn more about their condition, feel confident about their program, and change habits and behaviors to prevent or decrease the risk of further MSK problems.

SWORD Health approach to physical therapy

Our approach has shown to be faster and overall more effective than conventional physical therapy, and a reliable long-term solution.

We lower medical spend with MSK by as much as 30%

SWORD Health’s digital solution cuts direct and indirect costs in musculoskeletal care by as much as 30% — without ever compromising quality.

We tackle the most frequent MSKs, including chronic pain, post-surgery, and injury care. With us, employers only need one solution to cover the MSK problem in their workforce.


Our programs to manage back and joint pain have shown to dramatically reduce pain, opioid consumption, and surgeries, saving thousands of dollars in unnecessary drugs and procedures.

When it comes to rehabilitation, our digital approach saves up to 55% of costs by reducing overall physical therapy spend, cutting out transportation costs, and getting employees back to work sooner than with conventional care.

We provide a highly engaging solution

With conventional physical therapy, almost 50% of patients quit their treatment after only four sessions. From transportation and scheduling constraints to not being confident about their own treatment, there are many barriers to adherence.

Because we allow participants to perform their sessions at home, we’ve made musculoskeletal care more accessible and convenient to everyone, from people in remote areas to the ones juggling hectic schedules. And since we assign a licensed physical therapist to each participant, support and encouragement along the way are guaranteed.

SWORD Health Patient engagement

Our participants’ feedback speaks volumes about our approach, showing that SWORD Health programs are highly engaging and can keep people motivated through the end.

We enable a seamless implementation

Healthcare is complex and employee benefits must not add to that complexity but make it simpler. We do it by integrating seamlessly into care navigation platforms and enabling a frictionless deployment of our innovative therapy solution.

We also tailor our programs to each person’s individual MSK journey and promote the use of second medical opinion services as well as cross-referencing to other solutions as needed.

For Employers

Managing low back pain in the workplace

Low back pain (LBP) is no stranger to most of us. Given its 57-84% lifetime prevalence, most people will be affected by LBP at some moment in life.

In the US alone, about 66 million adults suffer from low back pain; in the working population, about 26% have reported low back pain in the previous 3 weeks.

Risk factors for low back pain at work

Low back pain is a symptom that can result from different abnormalities and diseases. Most cases of LBP, however, are classified as non-specific, which means no specific cause can be defined as a source of pain.

Non-specific low back pain is usually attributed to muscle sprains or strains and bad postural habits, which can be associated with work-related activities:

  • heavy lifting, pushing or pulling, so often required in more physical jobs, can lead to injury and, consequently, to back pain;
  • poor sitting posture and inactivity, common traits of desk jobs, can make way for low back pain to settle.

Other work-related risk factors are:

  • repetitive tasks, such as manual packing of goods;
  • maintained positions, which often happens while working with computers or driving long distances;
  • and vibration, from operating with tools.

The impact of low back pain on the American workforce

Low back pain is the leading cause of disability in working-age groups. Medical spend per adult with spinal problems is estimated at $6,000, with a total estimated amount of up to $102 billion per year.

A recent study found that, although only 1.2% of US adults with newly diagnosed LBP and lower extremity had surgery, they still accounted for almost 30% of total 12-month health costs — $784 million.

On the other hand, the total spending on healthcare for the other 98.8% who did not receive surgery was $1.8 billion. Interestingly, one-third of these patients received care that was inconsistent with clinical guidelines, which included expensive but dispensable imaging, and opioids.

On top of this, guidelines also discourage the use of opioids, but one study showed they were prescribed for about 60% of ER visits for low back pain in the US. Also, prescription medication abuse is common in patients taking opioids for back pain, with up to 24% of cases showing aberrant medication-taking behavior.

Surgery and opioid consumption are not only costly for employers, but also burdensome for employees. Surgery recovery typically takes long — around 12 weeks, and opioids are known to foster addiction. Therefore, it is easy to understand why low back pain is also associated with indirect costs related to work absenteeism and productivity loss.

All things considered, there’s a need for new and effective alternatives to surgery and prescription drugs when managing low back pain.

How SWORD Health helps manage low back pain

SWORD Health has come up with a solution that provides positive outcomes while reducing health spending. In short, it brings advantages to both employees and employers.

We deliver better results

Current clinical guidelines recommend the promotion of exercise therapy and positive health as the first-line treatment for non-specific low back pain.

Positive health entails person-centered care that promotes the concept of living well despite the pain by focusing on self-management and education as a means to avoid bed rest and continue with usual activities — including work.

The SWORD Health LBP Program is an evidence-based 12-week program to tackle low back pain. Following the most up-to-date guidelines, this program is based on the three pillars of musculoskeletal care: exercise therapy, continuous education, and behavioral coaching, all delivered through our unique Digital Therapist and continuously supervised by our clinical team.

Our approach allows participants to perform their program from the comfort of their homes, which not only is feasible and safe, it’s actually better.

Some of the factors that explain this positive outcome are the participants’ higher engagement and adherence to a home-based program with real-time feedback on performance; the data-driven decisions the system allows our physical therapists to make; and the access to a behavioral training program.

We provide the best care while cutting medical costs

Because patients overcome their pain faster and better, they are able to return to work and their daily activities sooner than what was previously expected. And what’s more, because we educate them with strategies and new behaviors to conquer pain, their use of opioids dramatically decreases.

Our approach translates into an up to 50% reduction in surgeries, a 36% reduction in opioid use, and an overall reduction of about 30% in medical costs.

If you would like to set up a benefits plan that helps you reduce your workforce’s burden with low back pain, reach out to our Strategic Business Development team.