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Our solution
What is Digital Physical Therapy?
November 22, 2022
1 min read
Virtual and digital physical therapy offer alternatives to traditional, brick-and-mortar physical therapy but is one better than the other?
What is digital physical therapy and how can it help me?
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Most Recent
Live your life pain-free with Sword Health
Company
November 13, 2022
1 min read
Improving Quality of Life for 2 Billion People in Pain
Find out how Sword Health is improving life for its members straight from the mouths of its members.
Sword Move mobile app
Our solution
November 10, 2022
1 min read
Introducing Sword Move
Activity during the workday
Our solution
November 3, 2022
1 min read
5 Ways to Stay Active During the Workday
Rise of medically unnecessary procedures
Our solution
October 27, 2022
1 min read
Solving the Epidemic of Unnecessary Surgery
Our solution
Joint risks of an inactive lifestyle
Our solution
October 13, 2022
1 min read
How to Combat the Dangers of Inactivity
Find out how a sedentary lifestyle can put your joint health at risk and what you can do to prevent MSK pain from inactivity.
Active movement benefits
Our solution
October 6, 2022
1 min read
Benefits of Active Movement
Explore how our modern lifestyle and working from home has reduced our daily active movement and helped to create a health crisis.
Sword Health reduces member’s surgery intent by 60%
Our solution
September 22, 2022
1 min read
Avoid the December Surgery Rush
Try Sword Health's musculoskeletal PT programs and reduce the growing costs of year-end surgeries.
Company
Sword Health grows 833% over 2021
Company
September 16, 2022
1 min read
Sword Health grows 833% YoY and surpasses 1,400 employer customers
Sword Health reveals its impressive new employer customer growth from 150 to more than 1,400 during the last 12 months.
What is the meaning of MSK?
Company
September 8, 2022
1 min read
What is MSK?
Learn about the musculoskeletal (MSK) system, what causes MSK disorders, and what you can do about MSK pain.
Sword's programs are effective against low back pain
Company
August 9, 2022
1 min read
Sword Health Publishes Clinical Study that Demonstrates Superior Patient Outcomes for Those with Acute Low Back Pain
Read how Sword’s digital care programs for acute low back pain are effective.
Testimonials
Faces of real Sword digital MSK members
Testimonials
July 27, 2020
1 min read
Freedom from Pain: Success stories from SWORD members
Whether it’s riding a bike, avoiding surgery, or eliminating the need for opioids, virtual physical therapy can help people live pain-free. At SWORD, we take pride in helping our members return to the health and lifestyle that they aspire to. Watch our video below to see just a few examples of how members have been able to find a new lease on life with SWORD.
Sword testimonial from a physical therapist
Testimonials
May 2, 2019
1 min read
Physical Therapist Testimonial: Lauran D., "If you don't give patients tools that empower them to keep going, they're just going to keep on coming back"
At age 14, Lauran suffered an injury to her ACL that required physical therapy. From that moment on, she decided physical therapy was what she wanted to do: “I thought ‘Oh, I can help people, that’d be great.’ So I consulted with my sister [who was studying occupational therapy], but she told me I would have to work on my communication skills too, because I was super-shy [laughs].” Since that moment, Lauran’s life has revolved around making other people healthier. From College Sports to Workers’ Comp In college, Lauran volunteered with the basketball and soccer teams, partly as a way to overcome her shyness. But make no mistake, these weren’t your run-of-the-mill college teams – this is the legendary Lady Vols and SEC tournament winning soccer teams we’re talking about. As a part of the team, she went on a trip to North Carolina, and she found the state so beautiful she decided to apply to (and attend) Duke University to become a Doctor of Physical Therapy. After college, Lauran started working at outpatient clinics, and eventually focused on workers’ compensation cases because they aimed at “trying to help people get better faster to do the job they need to get on with their lives, and I like that approach”. We asked Lauran what had brought her to SWORD after twelve years working in clinics: “[SWORD] was completely different. It was very technology-based and technically I’m a millennial but I didn’t grow up with technology, so I knew I would be expanding my boundaries. It would challenge me.” That’s our kind of people. A Brave New World One of the things Lauran enjoys the most about SWORD is that “It facilitates patient independence. Given the research and my years of experience, what I realized is that no matter how good your hands and your skills are, if you don't get compliance from the patient and you don't approach them empathetically, they're not going to get better. And if you don't give them tools that empower them to keep going, they're just going to keep coming back and create a dependence which shouldn't be created. I want people to think of me when they get injured but I don't want them to have the same injury and keep coming back to me.” Self-confidence plays a big role in the patient’s recovery. Lauran is adamant about this: “[Sometimes we have to tell patients] “You know, just because it hurts doesn't mean it's hurting you” and give them a sense of security in movement, because people build their anxieties and their fears and they want to have somebody there saying ‘Yes, I saw what you did’.” SWORD has a big advantage on this end: “I wouldn't be able to do that in a clinic because I would never be able to see what they could do and measure it.” Her first experience with the Digital Therapist was quite baffling: “Of course you know there's people that do research and they can put sensors on and identify movement. But turning that into something that can be offered to a large mass of people, [something] that physical therapists can follow and see ‘Oh, my patient’s not being able to do this’... It eliminates measurements on the PT’s side, because it tells you right there how much patients are able to do. It makes my job a little easier and it gives me more data than I would have in a clinic, and that’s helpful.” Change you can act upon When Lauran decided to join SWORD, she was taking a course on clinical blind spots: “It was pretty much the science behind what we would typically see in a musculoskeletal patient, particularly in low back patients.” The course focused on challenging physical therapists’ ability to interview a patient and see things as they see and perform cognitive behavioral therapy. As Lauran puts it, “we've focused our profession on hands-on approaches and getting people better that way. But then we realize that, number one, the research doesn't prove that that's the most effective way with some people and, number two, that trying to fix people isn’t the only thing that’s needed, you have to try to get them to change and modify their behavior so they can achieve a lifetime of function and not just a period of function.” SWORD’s approach was a perfect fit for what the course was teaching her. But there’s a little more to it: “You can get as educated in a topic and challenge yourself as much as you want to, but in the end [a therapy like SWORD’s] is very reliant on me doing what I'm learning instead of just saying ‘Oh, yeah, I went to that course’. I actually have to apply what I got from it.” A doer with a challenge-oriented mindset? She definitely had to be one of us.
Sword member testimonial
Testimonials
March 15, 2019
1 min read
Member testimonial: Monica, "The evolution is completely different"
Monica is a P.E. teacher and an all-around fan of sports. She’s the kind of person that can’t just stand still: she fidgets around all the time, like a runner at the starting line waiting for the whistle to be blown. Given her connection to sports, Monica had already had physical therapy a few times. She is a knowledgeable user of physical therapy, for good and for bad. When she hurt her shoulder in a car accident and had to undergo surgery, she knew what she was up to. From disbelief to relief After surgery, Monica was in a lot of pain and she had to hold her arm still. “The physical therapy center was a few miles away from home, and I would never step into the bus or the subway with my arm hurting like that.” Then her doctor told her about SWORD Digital Therapist. “At first I found it odd: I was used to conventional physical therapy, so I thought an approach like this could never work. But then I tried it and I figured it was really cool.” Monica says that the most significant difference for her is the fact that she is continuously monitored, “the evolution is completely different.” Furthermore, she quickly understood that the exercises she had to perform brought some relief to her pain. “Sometimes I couldn’t sleep because of the pain, so I got up at ungodly hours and started exercising(...) The best part of my day was the therapy; it actually relieved my pain.” Laughing her way through recovery Monica has just finished her program. The first thing she asks about when we visit her for this interview is the physical therapists that accompanied her during her time with the Digital Therapist: “How are they doing? I have to invite them over for dinner.” Her relationship with the physical therapists that monitored her recovery was unique. Monica took the Digital Therapist with her on vacations and sent over pictures of her performing the exercises by the pool. At a certain point, one of her prescribed exercises required her to lift weights. She once used a bottle of wine as a weight and sent a picture to her mildly astonished but utterly amused physical therapists. Life is slowly going back to normal. Monica has just rejoined her indoor football team, and she went back to walking her huge, lively dogs. She’s catching up with her life. Her initial expectations for the Digital Therapist were quite low: “I thought I was just going to play with a tablet.” Her opinion about it has changed a lot in the past few weeks: “This is unlike anything I have ever tried. And believe me, I should know, I have tried everything."
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Explained
Sword Health's DNA makes us different
Explained
March 3, 2021
1 min read
Explained: How SWORD’s DNA makes it different
As SWORD’s Chief Medical Officer and member of the company’s founding team, this is a question I get asked quite often. It is, perhaps, the most fundamental question to ask. Ultimately, what a company believes is what a company becomes. At SWORD, our mission is ambitious but simple: we want to free people from musculoskeletal pain and suffering. This clear vision is what guides us relentlessly towards achieving this goal. When we were laying SWORD’s foundations, we knew that the need was not only immense but growing. An analysis of the Burden of Disease Study revealed that 2.41 billion people are in need of rehabilitation, 70% due to musculoskeletal disorders. At the same time, human resources are scarce, expensive, and not scalable. In the US, for example, physical therapy is one of the top 10 hardest jobs to fill, with a gap of >30,000 jobs, and growing. We knew, therefore, that leveraging innovative digital technology was the only way forward. But we also knew that any technology that relied exclusively on real-time interaction between healthcare practitioners and patients was bound to fail - at best, it solves part of the problem on the patient end (avoiding commuting to and from appointments), but does not scale the clinician's ability to treat more patients. Additionally, we knew that adherence to home-based physical therapy programs is dismal, as low as 15%. We’ve all been there: we’ve all left a list of to-dos written by our physician, nurse or physical therapist (PT) forgotten at the bottom of a drawer, only to tell them that we did everything that they asked at the next appointment, knowing only too well we didn’t. (Expert tip here: we - healthcare professionals - can tell, there is no point in lying). So, we needed to find a way that members could access our solution and ensure that they would actually use it. And that is why we developed SWORD’s digital therapist. Tracking when and how often a member completes their exercises is crucial in any home-based program, because it enforces compliance. In psychology, this is called the Hawthorne effect - individuals modify an aspect of their behavior because they are aware of being observed. This has been experimentally demonstrated time and again. In short, any musculoskeletal (MSK) solution not including a tracking element (like sending a patient links to exercise videos) is going to fall short of the intended goal. There is much more to our digital therapist than being a “compliance sheriff,” but for the moment let us recap: an innovative and accessible technology could solve huge imbalances between supply of physical therapists and the demand for MSK treatment, but only if it leveraged tracking functionality to solve the compliance problem. Could it be done? More importantly, could it be done while ensuring high-quality care? This led us down a strenuous and multi-year path of distilling evidence on MSK care. Cutting through all the noise, there are three crucial components for effective MSK care: exercise, education and behavioral interventions. If you have been following our blog posts, you have already read about them. In short, patients need to understand their MSK condition, and the do’s and don’ts (education, they need to take their exercise pills (just like any other regular pill, it needs to be taken to be effective), and for long-lasting change, they also need to change their lifestyle and how they view and cope with their condition (behavioral change. Yes, I know what you are thinking: easier said than done, right? Especially the behavior change part. At this point we had to address a key question, crucial for the success or failure of this endeavor. What about all the in-person techniques that PTs use when a patient goes to a clinic? Can you deliver high-quality care without the personal touch?Actually, you can. And there are two ways to prove this. If you dive into the literature and search for evidence in favor of all those techniques, you’ll find that there is scarce evidence of their effectiveness, especially in regards to how broadly they are used. This is not to say that they are not important in selected cases - they are - but they are clearly being overutilized. The vast majority of people suffering from MSK conditions don’t need them to improve or stay better. And remember: the real problem is that the vast majority of people don’t have access to PT, or cannot attend a PT session because it doesn’t fit into their busy lives (which explains why only about 30% of people complete their programs). Fortunately, in the last decade, therapeutic exercise has regained importance as the mainstay intervention for MSK conditions. And with the COVID-19 pandemic, this shift has only accelerated. The second way to prove that high-quality care can be delivered digitally is by testing a digital program against face-to-face PT in clinical studies, and that is what we did. We were the first digital MSK care company to demonstrate we could achieve better clinical outcomes than face-to-face PT. Given the importance of exercise and usage tracking, the next challenge was to combine them. Enter our digital therapist again. Tracking alone was not enough. We wanted to make sure people could do their exercises safely and get clinical-grade feedback, as if (or even better than if) their PT was at their side. The resulting technology, our digital therapist, is the only medical-grade tech in this space based on inertial motion trackers, which is currently FDA-listed and certified in Canada, Europe and Australia. Our innovative motion tracker tech serves a dual purpose: not only can we make sure people get the real-time feedback they need to do their exercises correctly, but we also provide a wealth of information to our PTs that are managing their programs. Which leads us to a crucial point. Technology alone is not enough. As a physician, I would not trust my MSK health to anyone but an experienced healthcare professional. At SWORD, having 100% of care delivered by PTs, with the help of technology, was the obvious choice and never negotiable. PTs are the right people to manage an MSK care program: by training, by mission, and by creed. Having a PT involved daily in the care program, not delegating it to others, is the way to ensure the best outcomes possible. And what about the human touch? Can it be delivered digitally? There is research showing that a therapeutic alliance can effectively be built and cherished digitally. But the best way to prove this is to jump forward to the present. We now have thousands of members who have gone through the program and our engagement, satisfaction, and retention rates attest to our program’s ability to build a real connection between a patient and their physical therapist. Stats are great but what really motivates us are the countless testimonials we have received praising our PTs and the relationship they are able to establish with the members under their care. The road from inception to where we are today has been long and hard, but we are proud of what we have built. We are now available to 2M people around the globe and are the fastest growing digital MSK program in our space. We have remained true to our mission, and have more confidence than ever that our approach to MSK care is the right one. Everyone deserves to have access to the best care and we’re excited about a future where SWORD can help 2B people live a pain-free life again. If you would like to know more about SWORD and how it can help ease the MSK burden for you or your members, contact us. About the author: Dr. Fernando Correia, M.D. Dr. Fernando Correia is the Chief Medical Officer at SWORD Health, where he leads clinical validation and medical affairs. He is a physician with a specialty in Neurology, and also holds an Executive Masters degree in Healthcare Management. He co-founded SWORD with the firm belief that technology can lead healthcare into a new era, one where high-quality, evidence-based medicine is available to everyone, not just a select few. He also believes that a more humanistic approach to healthcare is needed, and that technology and the human touch can go hand in hand and make each other better. Fernando received his M.D. from the University of Coimbra and his Executive Masters from Católica Porto Business School. He trained in Portugal and in the UK (National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery and Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children). He lives in Porto, Portugal with his family, where he enjoys playing tennis, reading all kinds of books and savoring a good glass of wine.
Disorders of the wrist and impact on the workforce
Explained
October 28, 2020
1 min read
Explained: The impact of wrist conditions on the workforce
Resham awoke one crisp fall morning with a familiar sensation in her hand: a tingle that ran up from her right wrist to her fingers, a sign that her carpal tunnel syndrome was flaring up. She’d soon be in searing pain that would render her right hand virtually immobile and make her workday excruciating. She knew she had to act fast to stop the pain from progressing. She called in her team of practitioners - an occupational therapist, an osteopath, a massage therapist and a physical therapist. It took a week for her to get an appointment with the osteopath and almost two weeks to get a PT appointment, and both required prescriptions from her primary care physician. By the time she was done with her army of clinicians, she was over $500 out of pocket, with a wrist brace and an exercise program to follow, and she had a long journey ahead before her hands were back in action again. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: a productivity killer Resham’s story is common. According to the Bureau of Statistics and the Occupational Safety & Health Administration, there are over 900,000 new cases of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) reported per year, and it affects up to 25% of the workforce. It’s part of a family of musculoskeletal conditions called ‘work-related musculoskeletal disorders’ (WMSDs) - that includes sprains, strains, and tears that result from strenuous repetitive motions in the workplace. In 2018, there were 2.8 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses reported by private industry employers, with almost 1 million of those resulting in days away from work. Conditions of the hands and wrists are associated with longer absences from work than those affecting other parts of the body. CPS is one of the most common upper limb conditions, and the most expensive. Costs for treating CPS exceed $2 billion per year, mostly driven by surgeries - about 230,000 of them are performed every year. The impact of CTS on workplace productivity is substantial - people with work-related CTS report a median lost work time of 25 days. Who’s at risk for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome? CTS is caused by compression of the median nerve as it travels through the carpal tunnel on the wrist. Patients with the condition feel pain and paresthesia (a burning or prickling feeling) anywhere along the median nerve, which includes the thumb, index and middle fingers, and half of the ring finger. CTS is caused by repetitive and forceful hand movements, and made worse by awkward wrist and forearm postures, cold temperatures and vibration. As with all musculoskeletal conditions, workplace stress plays a role, as do physical and mental stressors outside the workplace. CTS affects women more than men, especially those who work in the service industries and who are under stress at work. While it affects a broad swath of the workforce, from hairdressers to welders to cashiers to journalists, the incidence is higher in the manufacturing, textile and livestock industries. Service and office workers are also at high risk for these conditions. Computer users who use their mouse heavily (more than 20 hours per week) are also at increased risk, and increasing hours of computer work or beginning a new job with high computer use demands also increase the risk. How SWORD Health can help There is evidence that physical therapy can be effective for wrist conditions, including CTS. SWORD’s wrist program combines therapeutic neural and tendon gliding exercises with education and behavioral coaching, all administered by our licensed Doctors of Physical Therapy. The exercises in the SWORD program reduce pressure on the nerve, increase circulation, and “floss” a tacky or immobile nerve. In some cases, exercises may be coupled with bracing and activity changes to reduce extreme wrist positions and repetitive activities. Behavioral support tools including our CBT program Strong Mind, Stronger Body may be used to mitigate psychosocial and behavioral risk factors. By addressing the physical and mental causes of wrist pain, SWORD’s wrist therapy program can reduce the need for surgery and improve productivity by relieving pain and improving function. Our physical therapists are also here to help advise you on the risk factors, tissue effects, and behavioral indicators of wrist conditions, so that your people can better prevent and manage these conditions. To find out more about how SWORD can help you tackle this problem and improve productivity in your workplace, contact us today. About the author: Dr. Fernando Correia, M.D. Dr. Fernando Correia is the Chief Medical Officer at SWORD Health, where he leads clinical validation and medical affairs. He is a physician with a specialty in Neurology, and also holds an Executive Masters degree in Healthcare Management. He co-founded SWORD with the firm belief that technology can lead healthcare into a new era, one where high-quality, evidence-based medicine is available to everyone, not just a select few. He also believes that a more humanistic approach to healthcare is needed, and that technology and the human touch can go hand in hand and make each other better. Fernando received his M.D. from the University of Coimbra and his Executive Masters from Católica Porto Business School. He trained in Portugal and in the UK (National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery and Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children). He lives in Porto, Portugal with his family, where he enjoys playing tennis, reading all kinds of books and savoring a good glass of wine.
Chronic pain, the opioid crisis, and a better way forward
Explained
October 20, 2020
1 min read
The drugs don’t work: chronic pain, the opioid crisis, and a better way forward
In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, another epidemic has continued to rage quietly on in the homes of millions of Americans - the opioid crisis. According to the American Medical Association, more than 40 states have seen increases in opioid-related deaths since the pandemic began. The drug crisis is a pain crisis You may have heard that we’re now more likely to die from an opioid overdose than in a car accident, and by now we know that chronic pain is often the cause. The most regular users of prescription opioids suffer from musculoskeletal (MSK) conditions, with 63% of regular users reporting arthritis and 59% reporting back pain. Up to 29% of patients prescribed opioids for chronic pain misuse them, and up to 10% of them will develop an opioid use disorder. How did we get here? In the 1990s, the medical community began thinking of pain as the "fifth vital sign." This led to a movement to decrease or eliminate pain as quickly as possible. When one of your vital signs (temperature, heart rate, breathing rate and blood pressure) is out of whack, your physician will take a two-pronged approach to treating it: medication to bring it back into range quickly, and lifestyle interventions to help you manage it for the long term. For example, if your blood pressure is too high, you’ll be prescribed a medication to bring it down quickly, and put on a diet and exercise regimen to help you keep it down naturally. Unfortunately, treating pain like a vital sign wasn’t successful, for two reasons: the medications used to bring it down are highly addictive, even when prescribed therapeutically, and many of those treating pain didn’t address the lifestyle factors that were contributing to the pain in the first place. We know that there are many factors that contribute to pain, particularly chronic pain, yet we only tried to treat it from one angle. Much of the discussion around the opioid crisis in the United States has centered around restricting the availability of the drugs and the rate of prescription, and improving access to treatment and recovery options. This is necessary work to reverse the trend of over-prescribing and help those already in the vice grip of these medications, but doesn’t address the root cause: the rise and rise of chronic MSK pain. If drugs don’t work for MSK pain, what does? And how can we treat this crisis at its root? Why the drugs don’t work Opioids aren’t just incredibly addictive, they’re also ineffective at treating chronic pain. This is because they don’t resolve pain at its source, they simply mask the symptoms. Opioids work by blocking pain receptors in the brain. Using them for extended periods can lead to structural and functional changes in your brain that result in tolerance, which means you’ll need to take higher and higher doses to get the same pain-relieving effect. In addition to becoming less effective at pain relief over time, they also have a negative effect on your emotional health. Initially, opioids produce feelings of wellbeing, but with increased use, can cause feelings of depression when the drug wears off. Opioid use doesn’t lead to better outcomes in chronic pain - instead, it can have a deleterious impact on our ability to manage pain, decrease our quality of life, quash our productivity and send our healthcare costs skyrocketing. Studies have shown that people who end up dependent on opioids due to a work-induced MSK condition are disabled for three times longer than those who don’t. A better way out In order to truly end the opioid crisis, we need to solve the underlying pain crisis, by making non-invasive, non-pharmacological treatments the first line of defence for chronic MSK conditions. The American College of Physicians and the CDC recommend a combination of therapeutic exercise, education and behavioral interventions to relieve MSK pain effectively without the use of drugs. The challenge has been making these kinds of interventions as readily-available and easy to use as medications - and this is where SWORD comes in. Our programs combine these three pillars of gold-standard care into digital therapy programs that members can perform in the comfort of home, with educational and emotional support from licensed PTs who are available for them whenever they need it. Our programs have proven to reduce pain levels by 50% in just 8 weeks, and among those who are taking medication, almost a quarter (24%) of them stop completely by 8 weeks, and the others reduce their intake by almost half (48%). At SWORD, we believe that the pain crisis is solvable, and we’re proud to be doing our part. To find out more about how SWORD is helping thousands of members overcome chronic pain and free themselves from the grip of medications, contact us today. About the author: Dr. Fernando Correia, M.D. Dr. Fernando Correia is the Chief Medical Officer at SWORD Health, where he leads clinical validation and medical affairs. He is a physician with a specialty in Neurology, and also holds an Executive Masters degree in Healthcare Management. He co-founded SWORD with the firm belief that technology can lead healthcare into a new era, one where high-quality, evidence-based medicine is available to everyone, not just a select few. He also believes that a more humanistic approach to healthcare is needed, and that technology and the human touch can go hand in hand and make each other better. Fernando received his M.D. from the University of Coimbra and his Executive Masters from Católica Porto Business School. He trained in Portugal and in the UK (National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery and Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children). He lives in Porto, Portugal with his family, where he enjoys playing tennis, reading all kinds of books and savoring a good glass of wine.
Musculoskeletal Disorders
Explain pain
Musculoskeletal Disorders
October 10, 2019
1 min read
Why understanding pain leads to better recovery
Pain is an evergreen topic when talking about musculoskeletal conditions. Although every person sees and feels pain differently, it plays the main character in their daily life. But pain can be demoted to a lesser, supporting role. How? By understanding pain, what it entails, and how we should behave towards it. Then, recovery won’t seem as difficult and unattainable as before. Pain is not just pain Pain is the way our body responds to a threat by prompting protective behaviors, which includes focusing attention on pain sources and avoidance. However, these protective behaviors may persist beyond the healing time, and this is when pain turns chronic, leading to pain-related disability. So, pain is more than just pain. It's the fear of pain and movement, the loss of function, and the inability to do the things we used to do out of the fear of them being harmful — even though most times they are not. However, feeling pain does not mean we have serious damage, nor it means we are doing further damage. The same applies to exercise therapy. Exercise-induced pain is common and to be expected When people struggling with a musculoskeletal condition are about to start their treatment, they often fear that physical therapy is painful. The answer is quite straightforward: yes, it is painful – at first. But this pain is normal, bearable, and nothing to be worried about. As the body gets used to the therapeutic exercises, the higher loads patients can tolerate, and the less and less pain they feel. In other words, there's a dose-response to exercise for musculoskeletal pain. Over time, people learn to expect increasingly challenging exercises while knowing they can tolerate them. Moderately painful exercises are actually beneficial Research has shown that doing moderately painful exercises offers better outcomes than doing exercises with no pain at all. It has also proved that exercising into pain has no apparent adverse effect when the aim is to manage chronic musculoskeletal pain. One of the discussed reasons for this response to exercise into pain was the positive impact on central pain processes, the immune system, and affective aspects of pain. In short, moderately painful exercises challenge the body’s threat response to pain, helping “reconceptualize” pain as safe and non-threatening. Consequently, people no longer perceive pain as equal to harm, being then able to reintroduce the same movements they were avoiding before. They learn how to cope with pain — and conquer it. Being a coper, not an avoider, is the best way to conquer pain During a painful event, it’s better to cope with pain and not give in to paralyzing pain-related fear. Changing the perception about pain is a tipping point between having a coping over an avoidance behavior. It includes challenging the attention bias, which happens when we focus our attention on how painful a particular movement is and end up feeling it more strongly. In other words, we end up catastrophizing pain. Exercising, as mentioned before, is a way of challenging this bias and reframing pain as not harmful. Another one is making a valued life goal a priority over pain. Focusing our attention on what really matters to us outweighs our pain-related fear. When we set goals and are optimistic about them, it becomes easier to hold back our fear-related protective behaviors. After the pain, the recovery The SWORD Health team took all critical aspects of pain management into account when developing our solution for musculoskeletal care. We promote exercise as the first-line approach to MSK management; We make goal-setting a priority, enabling participants to divert their attention from pain to their more objective, valued goals; We foster continuous education as a way of empowering people to put pain into perspective and go through with the program despite it. At the end of the day, our Digital Therapist yields undisputed results, with a reported 74% decrease in pain after only eight weeks — all while helping people stay away from opioids and surgeries, too. After we overcome the pain obstacle, the path to recovery becomes clearer. Pain is no longer a barrier to treatment, so people can set their minds to a more relevant goal: getting better, faster.
Exercise to reduce back pain and joint pain
Musculoskeletal Disorders
July 18, 2019
1 min read
How staying active helps manage back and joint pain
How sedentary is the U.S. population? According to the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, Americans spend “the majority of their waking time in sedentary behaviors." Sedentary behavior is a matter of public health. Not only does it have a negative impact on overall health, it has also been associated with a proneness to suffer from musculoskeletal disorders – also known as MSDs, a set of diseases that includes chronic back and joint pain, and affects 1 in every 2 adults in the U.S. Exercise, a central player in preventing and treating MSDs The correlation between exercise and health is obvious. We know how relevant a role physical activity plays in preventing heart diseases and fostering mental health, for instance. Indeed, exercise is seen as "an economic and safe way to prevent and treat diseases" when compared with the cost of opioids and other drugs on families and society. Yet, what people sometimes overlook is that exercise can help prevent and treat musculoskeletal disorders, too. The 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee of the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion published a scientific report that showed “a relationship between greater amounts of physical activity with decreased pain and improved physical function in adults with osteoarthritis of the knee and hip." What is more, an active lifestyle also led to reports of “overall improvement in their quality of life.” As for low back pain, a recent systematic review stated that exercise, along with patient education, is the only clinically proven way to prevent it. The study goes as far as saying "exercise alone may reduce the risk of an episode of LBP [low back pain] and sick leave due to LBP, at least for the short-term." People with medical conditions, however, should be cautious when engaging in physical activity. MSD patients should follow an exercise program customized to their specific case and prescribed by certified physical therapists. A tailored exercise program will provide the guidance they need to engage in suitable physical activities that promote their rehabilitation and physical function. More physical activity, more pain relief and self-confidence The piece that people usually miss in understanding why physical activity is so important is exactly how it can change the way their bodies behave and adapt. First, exercise improves overall physical ability as well as muscular strength and flexibility, reducing stiffness and improving mobility and range of motion. Secondly, exercise promotes the release of endorphins, which act like opioids in our system and lead to a decreased perception of pain. All in all, exercise helps surpass the fear of movement, regaining confidence in movement, self-esteem, and self-efficacy. It's fairly simple to recognize why these factors may contribute to an improvement in quality of life and overall health. The missing factor: compliance By this time, the association between physical activity and effective back and joint pain management is well-established. However, there's another critical factor for this equation to work: compliance. In research, studies showing greater compliance with exercise programs also reported more positive outcomes. But how do we promote compliance? According to the report mentioned above, individual-level interventions may be an effective way to "increase the volume of physical activity (…), especially when the interventions are based on behavioral change theories and techniques." Moreover, "information and communication technologies (...) can be used to enable self-monitoring, deliver messages, and provide support”, which can help promote regular physical activity. Why SWORD is the go-to solution for pain management Summing up what we have discussed so far, there are three key ideas to take away: physical activity is an effective strategy for the management of back and joint pain; exercise programs should be customized to the individual needs of MSD patients; exercise is more effective when there is compliance, which can be achieved through one-on-one interventions, patient education, and remote support. SWORD covers all three aspects for the successful management of MSDs: we promote physical therapy as the first-line treatment for joint and back pain, we prescribe tailored exercise programs that address the specific needs of our patients, and we enable our patients to perform their programs at home while receiving real-time feedback. The result? A faster and better way to treat MSDs. And when it comes to relieving pain, our program’s positive impact is best described with one of our patient’s words: "Sometimes I couldn't sleep because of the pain, so I got up at ungodly hours and started exercising (...) The best part of my day was the therapy; it actually relieved my pain".
MSDs and the opioid epidemic
Musculoskeletal Disorders
March 22, 2019
1 min read
Round-up on the Opioid Epidemic: Musculoskeletal Disorders and Opioids
A few weeks ago, we discussed the current state of affairs regarding the opioid epidemic. At that time, we shared some grim numbers along with some hopeful steps being taken to tackle it. This time, we're addressing the connection between musculoskeletal disorders and opioids. Musculoskeletal pain and opioids: the hows and whys Musculoskeletal disorders (or MSKs) are injuries or disorders that affect the human body’s movement or musculoskeletal system, causing recurring pain, stiffness or swelling. The most commonly affected areas of the body are the back, neck, shoulders, hip, and knees. When we talk about chronic low back pain or chronic shoulder pain, we’re usually talking about an MSK. Many MSKs are work-related or at least worsened by work. Opioids have long been a standard, go-to option to treat MSK. But given the current circumstances, doctors are becoming increasingly cautious when prescribing them. Even the Center for Disease Control and Prevention has issued guidelines to help Health professionals decide whether or not chronic pain patients might require opioid treatment. Given opioids’ high addiction rates, keeping people from beginning to take them unless absolutely mandatory may prevent many future deaths. This sounds like a good strategy since their very real toll on populations has been unraveling before our eyes for years now. However, the most baffling piece of information regarding opioids and its use to treat chronic pain is that opioids are not even a recommended approach to hand these affections. In fact, specialists recently came to the conclusion that “NSAIDs and opioids reduce pain in the short-term, but the effect size is modest, and the potential for adverse effects need careful consideration.”. What this study does recommend as the best way to address back and joint pain is a combination of physical therapy and behavioral intervention. Sorting what's wrong with conventional physical therapy Being the favored solution to treat MSK, it may come as odd that under 10% of people engage in physical therapy when their doctors prescribe it. But it’s fairly easy to understand why: the hassle to get to a physical therapy center, most likely at inconvenient times, and the time spent in the waiting room make most people opt out. To solve the inconvenience associated with MSK care, we at SWORD Health have developed a new approach to it: the Digital Therapist. By bringing MSK care to people’s home, we have eliminated the hassle factor that causes them to reject physical therapy. By allowing for real-time remote monitoring, assessment, and communication via a human clinical team comprised of doctors and physical therapists, we make understanding the participants’ evolution and troubleshooting seamless and immediate. But, most importantly, by delivering a MSK solution that is clinically proven to be even more effective than conventional physical therapy, we are ensuring people reduce pain by 74%, enabling people to have a better quality of life while keeping opioids at bay. If you would like more information on how we can help you reduce your workforce’s burden with MSK, reach out to our Strategic Business Development team.
Ask a PT
Do I need to stop my normal workout routine while doing a Sword Health program?
Ask a PT
April 27, 2021
1 min read
Ask a PT: Do I need to stop my normal fitness while doing SWORD?
As a physical therapist working with active people who are also SWORD members, it's only a matter of time before I get asked: “Do I have to stop training or working out while doing this program?” The short answer is “not necessarily.” Exercise has proven health benefits, including keeping you slimmer, and strengthening your heart and endurance. It can boost your mood and improve your sleep habits. The American Heart Association and the CDC recommend at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous aerobic activity and strength training each week. As a PT helping patients to achieve better health, it’s my duty to promote exercise on a daily basis. Through the SWORD program, I also help our members tackle their pain in a safe and effective way — while keeping them active as well. People often seek our help when their pain becomes a regular occurrence or hindrance in their everyday lives. When this is the case, continuing with their usual workout routines without guidance from a licensed physical therapist can lead to increased risk of injury and a longer recovery time. But that doesn’t mean you have to stop completely! Sometimes, it may be appropriate to take a break from your other workouts while you focus on healing and becoming pain-free. In other cases, your physical therapist may recommend a reduced or alternative workout routine to compliment your SWORD program. And some patients may not need to change their routine at all. Think of physical therapists as movement experts who have the knowledge and experience to review your current routine and advise you if it’s appropriate to continue and at what capacity. Since the SWORD program is delivered virtually in the comfort of your own home and can be done at your own pace, it’s an excellent companion to your current exercise routine in most cases. Let’s dig into this a bit more. Movement analysis, exercise prescription, and education are all tools we use to provide an appropriate and goal-oriented program. Whether you are lifting weights in the gym or doing the latest yoga routine, every exercise you perform has a specific movement pattern. But if it’s not done correctly, it can lead to injury. Proper performance and motor control are essential to getting back to your normal workout without increasing injury risk. That’s one way we can help. Exercise Program When defining your exercise program, we take into account many factors, which can be grouped into three main areas: Specificity: Your program and exercises will be tailored to your work, home and recreational demands, as well as address your specific areas of concern and medical history. Progression: As you progress, so will your exercises. We want to see a gradual increase in intensity so your body learns to adapt and becomes stronger. Variety: If you have been training hard to reach a fitness goal, chances are you have developed a routine. The SWORD program introduces variety into your workout by focusing on novel exercises and working on different muscle groups that can be easily neglected. Education Our knowledge of proper movement, injury prevention and musculoskeletal conditions can save you a lot of time sifting through Dr. Google’s endless (and often conflicting) recommendations.Safe participation in physical activity is our goal. We want you to feel empowered when you’re exercising and know that your body is capable of achieving great things. So let’s outsmart pain together. Work closely with your SWORD physical therapist to understand if your exercise routine is safe to continue or needs to be modified in any way for optimal recovery. About the author: Ashley Bass, PT, DPT Ashley Bass is a licensed physical therapist with a background in orthopedic rehab to include chronic pain, joint replacements, and temporomandibular disorders. Ashley is a classically trained dancer who found a passion for physical therapy after a car crash halted her performing arts career. Based on this background, she loves to explore movement with her patients and have them find the grace and beauty of functional mobility. Ashley earned her Doctorate in physical therapy from the University of Maryland, School of Medicine. She also holds a Bachelor in Science degree from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro in Exercise and Sports Science. Presently, Ashley lives in Northern Virginia with her husband and dog. They are self-proclaimed foodies and love exploring new restaurants around the city in search of the perfect bite. When not eating, both enjoy working out and weight lifting.
When is the best time of day to exercise?
Ask a PT
February 11, 2021
1 min read
Ask a PT: when is the best time to do my exercises?
Before I joined SWORD Health, I worked in brick-and-mortar clinics. I never worked weekends, and rarely worked past 6 pm. My schedule was great...for me. But for my patients, it was a real challenge. Attending a physical therapy appointment might require leaving work early or slipping out at lunch. Even patients with more flexible schedules would sometimes lament about finding childcare or arranging transportation. A thirty-minute appointment could easily take an hour or even 90 minutes once travel was taken into account. When I was in a clinic, the “best” time for a patient to do their exercises was the time that worked for me, not for them. SWORD's virtual model gives our members the power to do their exercises when AND where it's most convenient for them. Now that I work remotely for SWORD, I’m able to help our members figure out the best time to do their exercises at home. Now, when my members ask me when they should do their exercises, I tell them - the best time is when you’ll actually do them! Research shows that people are most likely to be successful if they can create a routine based on their natural tendencies. Think about your typical day and week. When are you most busy or tired? When do you feel most energetic and productive? When do you naturally need a break in your day? In many cases, when doing exercises prescribed by your physical therapist, the more sessions you can fit in, the better your treatment results will be. There may be circumstances where that’s not the case, but in general, daily sessions will give you additional benefits over less frequent sessions. So start by figuring out what days of the week work best for you. Can you do three sessions during the workweek and one on the weekend? Or maybe you’re busy playing outside with your kids on the weekends, so a daily session Monday through Friday will help you build the routine that sticks. Lastly, figure out what time of day works best for you. This may vary depending on the day of the week, but try to stay consistent. Morning: the early bird gets the workout done Early sessions are great for a few reasons. Many people feel stiff when they get out of bed. Doing your session right when you wake up can help get your blood pumping, help you feel more nimble, and get you ready to face the day. Another reason mornings are great for exercise is that most of us experience decision fatigue as the day wears on. Imagine your mental energy is like a cup of water. When you wake up, that cup is full. Every time you make a choice, you take a sip from your cup. All choices - from small ones like what to wear or what to eat, to bigger ones like whether to let your child watch TV or how you should prioritize your workload, drain your cup of water, or mental energy. That’s why it’s easier to turn down a cookie at lunch than after dinner or to stand your ground against your toddler’s temper tantrum in the morning than at bedtime. Your cup may be empty by lunchtime, or it may last until bedtime, depending on how big it was to start and what challenges you faced that day. Even if you have made your health and your SWORD program a priority, the act of turning on your digital therapist and starting a session will take some mental energy, so scheduling early in the day when you have a full cup is a good way to ensure success. Finally, we tend to have more control over our mornings. As your morning turns to afternoon, unexpected things are more likely to arise that might stop you from sticking to your plan. Lunchtime: movement snacks to fuel your body Midday is another great time to exercise. If you work at a computer like I do, you probably find yourself sitting for hours on end. That lack of movement is likely exacerbated if you’re working from home due to COVID-19. When you leave the house to go to work, you naturally have more opportunities to move, whether you’re commuting (even just walking through a parking lot), walking to meetings or stepping out for lunch. When your commute is from your bed to your living room and you spend your lunch break at your kitchen table, it’s easy to let whole days go by without much movement. We recently conducted a survey and found that nearly half of those who were working from home and moving the same or less than they used to were experiencing pain - compared to only 8% of those who were moving more. Planning your session during your workday gets you up and moving. This movement is good for pain management but also for your overall health, triggering processes that help you maintain your blood sugar and impact your cholesterol production, among other things. Trust me: the lunchtime workout will only work if you schedule it on your calendar. Block off the time and honor your appointment like you would if you were going to a physical therapy clinic. Make sure to consider when you will eat lunch as well. Try to fit in the time to eat mindfully after your session, without staring at your computer screen. After work: turn off your computer and turn on your muscles If the best time for you to exercise is after work, make sure to set yourself up for success early in the day by making all decisions related to exercise in the morning. You might find that your decision cup is much emptier by the time you’ve finished work. Take some time in the morning to lay out your exercise clothes, gather any equipment you need, and make sure your digital therapist is charged. Schedule a time on your calendar or leave a note in a visible place reminding yourself of your commitment to your session. The goal is to feel like you’re effortlessly and automatically starting your session. Don’t let yourself get sidetracked by trying to find your yoga mat at 6 pm. Night: Power down with an exercise session followed by meditation The sun has set, kids are in bed, and your computer is off - you’re ready to roll. I’ve worked with members who thrive with late-night sessions. If that’s you, just like the post-work exerciser, make sure to set yourself up to do your session earlier in the day. When you exercise, your heart rate increases and you may find it tough to settle down right after a session. If that’s the case, you may find it beneficial to end your exercise session with one of the meditations from SWORD’s Strong Mind, Stronger Body program. Meditation and focused breathing can help relax your muscles, lower your heart rate, and prepare your body for a good night of sleep. As always, remember that your physical therapist is a great resource for helping you figure out how to fit your sessions into your day. About the author: Megan Hill, PT, DPT Megan Hill, Doctor of Physical Therapy, is a licensed physical therapist focused on musculoskeletal rehab and chronic pain management. She dropped her plans to go to law school for physical therapy after a knee injury from the Chicago Marathon left her in need of rehab, and she hasn’t looked back since. She’s on a mission to empower people to manage their health through exercise, education and coaching, rather than relying on passive approaches. Megan earned a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree from the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). She also holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology from Duke University and is a certified running coach. Megan lives in Denver, Colorado, where she spends every spare second running, biking, hiking, sailing and stand up paddleboarding with her husband, Layton, and dog, Ollie.
Why is understanding your pain important?
Ask a PT
January 21, 2021
1 min read
Ask a PT: Why is education important?
Fun fact: According to Google, on average, there are more than 300,000 searches for “lower back pain” every month. If you’re struggling with pain and have looked to the Internet for answers, you’re in good company. We humans have a natural desire to learn about ourselves and the world around us, and when we’re struggling with pain or loss of function, the right knowledge, delivered in the right way, can help us heal. Today, we’ll explore how learning about your condition can help you better manage it, as well as a few reasons to stay away from the offices of Dr. Google. Here are a few benefits of education. It busts myths about pain When you’re in pain, you might get unsolicited advice from all angles, including the fearful voice in your head. Everyone feels pain differently, but for many of us, experiencing pain but not understanding it can be confusing and scary, especially if everyone around you has an opinion about it and you’ve been up late doom-scrolling health websites. Learning the facts about what’s causing the pain can help you approach it more rationally and with less fear, which in turn can help you face the pain and overcome it. In most cases, the presence of pain doesn’t mean there’s serious damage, and your body is capable of doing much more than you think it can. It helps you understand your treatment options There are many different ways to treat musculoskeletal conditions. All of them have different success rates and levels of risk. Understanding the specifics of your condition, the ways you can treat it, and the risks and benefits of each treatment, can help you make the most informed choices about your care. It improves self-efficacy Henry Ford famously said, “whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.” This is as true for overcoming pain as it is for any other goal. Self-efficacy, or the ability to believe that you can succeed, is an important part of the healing process. This is because the brain is heavily involved in your experience of pain. Great physical therapy programs strengthen both body and mind with various tools, including education. The great thing about self-efficacy is that its benefits can extend into other areas of your life. Once you’ve conquered the back pain that’s been aggravating you for years, you might find yourself doing even more things that you thought you couldn’t, and feeling less depressed or anxious, too. So what’s the big deal with Dr. Google? Don’t get me wrong, all of the knowledge that your physical therapist or other medical provider will give you is out there for you to discover. The problem is, so is a lot of irrelevant, incorrect, and sometimes scary stuff. A search for ‘back pain’ returns 1.5 billion results, and even the most credible sources, like the symptom checkers from large medical providers, aren’t always right. An Australian study found that symptom checkers only listed the correct diagnosis first about a third (36%) of the time, and in almost half (42%) of cases, the correct diagnosis didn’t even appear in the top ten. One of your provider’s jobs is to distill down all the available information and share what is relevant to you, empowering you without making you feel fragile, broken or scared. We’ve spent years studying the way the body and brain work and thousands of hours helping people just like you, so that we can give you all the insight you need - and more importantly, nothing you don’t. Our approach to education Here at SWORD, we take a multifaceted approach to education. Your physical therapist will start the education process from your very first video call, and continue it throughout your journey. They’ll also curate articles to help you learn on your own. You’ll also have access to an 8-week cognitive behavioral therapy program designed by psychiatrists and psychologists to improve your relationship to pain. All of this education will help you: Understand at a high level how your body works, the structures involved and how they work together. Know what you can do to improve your pain and function. Consider the physical AND emotional aspects of pain and recovery. Feel reassured that your body is strong and resilient. Learn when to push and when to slow down. Improve your self-efficacy and empower you to manage your health long-term. What if something you’re told or you read doesn’t make sense? What if someone else told you something completely different? Well, just ask your physical therapist! They can help you sort through all of the information you’re hearing so you can make the decisions that are right for you. About the author: Megan Hill, PT, DPT Megan Hill, Doctor of Physical Therapy, is a licensed physical therapist focused on musculoskeletal rehab and chronic pain management. She dropped her plans to go to law school for physical therapy after a knee injury from the Chicago Marathon left her in need of rehab, and she hasn’t looked back since. She’s on a mission to empower people to manage their health through exercise, education and coaching, rather than relying on passive approaches. Megan earned a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree from the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). She also holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology from Duke University and is a certified running coach. Megan lives in Denver, Colorado, where she spends every spare second running, biking, hiking, sailing and stand up paddleboarding with her husband, Layton, and dog, Ollie.
For Employers
Digital PT improves employee retention
For Employers
September 27, 2022
1 min read
How Digital Physical Therapy Improves Employee Retention
See how the right benefits package can improve employee retention as well as employee satisfaction.
For Employers
February 11, 2020
1 min read
Live webinar: Outwitting the MSK Crisis with Cathryn Jakobson Ramin
Watch this webinar on-demand. Join us for a conversation with New York Time"s 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 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].
#1 driver of employers’ health costs = MSK
For Employers
January 20, 2020
1 min read
Tackling the #1 driver of employers’ health costs: MSK
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. MSK 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. MSK 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. MSK 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.

Ready to outsmart MSK for good?

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