Joint and muscle pain is an endemic problem in the European Union, with the condition accounting for half of all absences from work and almost two-thirds of long-term incapacity cases.
The Work Foundation estimates the cost of the problem at £221bn, with 100 million Europeans suffering from some form of the complaint, 40 million of whom have had to give up work as a direct result.
Stephen Bevan, managing director of the organisation, said: “Musculoskeletal disorders have a serious, negative impact on the EU and were responsible for millions of lost working days in one year in the UK alone.
“As Europe now struggles to emerge from the global recession, one consideration policy-makers should address is how productivity is being undermined by these painful conditions.”
TUC general secretary Brendan Barber backed the calls, stating: “This report highlights what trade unions have been demanding for many years, which is access to early rehabilitation for those with muscle and back problems.
“In the UK just 2% of workers have access to occupational health services through their employer and most people have to rely on a referral from their GP. This can take many months, by which time the problem may be chronic.”