Digital programmes improve musculoskeletal health

  • August 29, 2022
  • William Payne

A study has shown that multimodal digital care programmes can have significant impact on musculoskeletal sufferers, improving both their mental health and their workplace productivity. Such programmes are effective even in patients with significant mental health comorbidities. A clinical study of the Sword digital health program has showed improvements in depression of up to 51% and in anxiety of up to 41%.

Chronic MSK pain sufferers are up to five times more likely to have anxiety disorders. They will also be up to three times more likely to have depressive disorders. Association between musculoskeletal pain and mental health conditions leads to greater symptom burden and greater productivity losses than either condition alone.

The study, published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research (JMIR), aimed to explore the impact of digital MSK care programmes in productivity and mental health, looking specifically at members with mental health comorbidity. It included 7785 participants who were divided into three groups according to baseline depression scores: 6137 (78.8%) were included in group 1, 1158 (14.9%) in group 2 and 490 (6.3%) in group 3.

Group 1 had minimal or no depression; group 2 had mild depression, while group 3 had more serious to acute depression.

Significant improvements in depression and anxiety scores were observed in groups 2 and 3:

  • Depression: 51% improvement in group 2 (from 6.6 to 3.2) and 29% in group 3 (from 14 to 9.9)
  • Anxiety: 41% improvement in group 2 (from 5.4 to 3.2) and 21% in group 3 (from 10.7 to 8.5)

All groups reported significant improvements in productivity impairment: 

  • 38% improvement in group 1 
  • 62% improvement in group 2
  • 44% improvement in group 3 

The study shows that multimodal digital care programmes together with cognitive behaviour therapy, can significantly improve users’ mental health scores and productivity, even in those with significant depression at baseline.