Musculoskeletal disorders are a real pain in the neck (and back)
Let’s face it, none of us are getting any younger.
I had a landmark birthday this year but still find myself thinking I’m capable of doing the same things I did when I was 20.
I try my best to keep healthy and was so pleased to achieve a goal this year when I completed a charity walk of 26 miles along the Clarendon Way. Surprisingly, I felt fine the following day – it must have been that long soak in the bath with a glass of wine!
I count myself lucky that I’m able to keep active. However, about nine months ago, I had a trapped nerve in my neck.
For 24 hours I was in excruciating pain; I didn’t know whether to sit, stand or lie down.
And it was all because I didn’t want to make two trips from my car to the house with the food shopping!
Thankfully, I was better within a couple of days and didn’t need to take any time off work. I went to my usual Pilates class which was run by a trained physiotherapist and she gave me some exercises to do at home. I’m sure that contributed to my quick recovery.
It did make me think, though, that despite all the health and safety information that’s out there – especially when it comes to lifting properly – I still tried to cut corners.
That’s how easy it is to end up with a musculoskeletal disorder (MSD).
Biggest cause of sickness absence
More than 130 million days are being lost to sickness absence every year. And more of these days were lost to MSDs than any other cause of incapacity.
Suffering with an MSD is something that can happen to absolutely any of us, and back pain actually ranks highly on the list of self-inflicted ailments. Like my own experience, MSDs can be caused by incorrect lifting. Poor posture, sitting incorrectly at a desk or whilst driving a car, or even doing the garden can lead to problems – the list of potential causes is endless.
Injuries can be sudden or they can build up over time. They can also be the result of a medical condition.
Whatever the cause, pain of this kind can have a huge impact on day to day life. And sometimes, it can last for a considerable period of time. Our claims experience shows that the average length of an income protection claim for these kinds of conditions is 11 years.
The right treatment at the right time
As my Pilates class showed, one of the key things for a quick and effective recovery is quick and effective treatment.
Many people with MSDs benefit from physiotherapy and pain management services.
Our claims experience shows that the sooner people receive the right treatment and support, the shorter the recovery period will be. An income protection policy can help make sure sufferers get the treatment they need, when they need it.
It can also help by making adjustments in the workplace so that a return to work can happen sooner rather than later.
But with all things, prevention is better than the cure, so please learn from my mistake: if an extra bag of shopping from the car, or an extra bag of gravel to the end of the garden feels like too much, then it probably is.
Aviva's income protection product manager
If you haven’t already seen what our product experts have to say about the importance of income protection, here’s where you can find all our previous blogs.
7Families – Ordinary people
providing extra-ordinary inspiration
We all know that Sunday evening feeling when Monday morning starts to loom over us again.
We might really enjoy our job, but I bet we’ve all thought ‘If only I’d won the lottery this weekend!
Now imagine that Sunday evening in reverse: you really want to go to work in the morning, but you can’t. You’ve been ill or had an accident and don’t know if, or when, you’ll ever be able to work again.
How would that make you feel?
I can only begin to imagine; I know I would be scared about the future. However, our ability to deal with adversity is really quite amazing; something I’ve learnt through the inspiring stories from the 7Familes project.
Seven families, seven inspirational stories
The 7Families campaign is the first time insurance providers have come together to encourage people to plan for their financial futures in case they can’t work.
And I’m really proud to say I’m part of the team.
What has really struck me about the families involved is their absolute determination to get their lives back on track. And seeing the difference 7Families has made to their recovery has been nothing short of amazing.
It’s often the little things that have helped – proving that an income protection policy is not just about the money.
Take the Clarke family who move around the country on their narrow boat – what would happen if they needed to see a doctor and are miles away from their usual one?
With 7Families, the help and support has been there when they need it.
And I defy anyone not to be moved by Paul and Emma Pickford’s heart breaking story as they try to overcome the challenges resulting from Paul’s brain stem stroke.
The videos telling each family’s story are truly inspiring.
Seeing each family’s determination to get back on track has really made me count my blessings.
What’s more, it amazes me that, despite what life throws at these families, they continue to think about others and get involved in fundraising events. Tracey Clarke has recently done a sponsored walk along the Kennet and Avon Canal, and Nikki Thornley’s husband Paul has cycled 1,000 miles from John O’Groats to Land’s End.
See the stories for yourself
If you do nothing else today, visit the 7Families website and/or Facebook page, watch the videos and be inspired by the stories of these extraordinary families.
See for yourself how income protection can literally be a life saver.
I have, and I would love all families not to have to worry about how they would cope if they couldn’t work.
Putting our minds
to mental health
Mental health is probably something most of us don’t really think about. But actually it affects all of us – it affects how we think and feel about ourselves, how things in our lives affect our behaviour and how we deal with the rough times.
In essence, it affects every aspect of our day to day lives.
We’re all busy, with lots of responsibilities to juggle. But the way we cope with daily life can be very different. Some of us bounce back from a setback while others feel weighed down by it for a long time.
What’s more, how we cope with certain situations can change over time.
And because we each have different coping mechanisms, not all of us feel comfortable talking about our feelings.
When we think of mental health problems, we commonly think of anxiety and depression, both of which can have a big impact on our ability to get on with life. We all let things get on top of us from time to time – I know my inner voice has told me ‘to pull myself together!’ in the past.
But what if I didn’t know how to do it? What if I couldn’t bring myself to deal with what life threw at me?
Things can easily spiral out of control. But we should remember that not coping is not a weakness. We should also remember that there are medical professionals who can help – we don’t have to struggle on alone.
Unfortunately, however, some people feel there is still a stigma attached to admitting to living with a mental health problem. So they keep their feelings hidden because they’re afraid of how other people will react, and that they’ll be given a label they can’t ever remove.
Figures show that about a quarter of the UK population will experience some kind of mental health problem in the course of a year. I saw first hand the devastating impact this can have on peoples’ lives when it affected a very dear friend of mine. Here was a woman who had everything going for her, or at least that’s how it appeared to the outside world.
But inside, it was a very different story.
Her battle with mental illness had a huge impact on her family and friends, and what affected me the most was that she kept all her problems bottled up and would not let us help her.
This doesn’t need to be the case.
Research has shown that with early intervention and access to treatment, the potential for recovery – and return to work – is significantly improved. And that’s why income protection is so important. By providing a much-needed support network, it gives people someone to turn to, as well as the financial support they need to keep paying their bills if they can’t work.
Quite simply, it can help them get their life back on track.
None of us know what’s around the corner. And none of us know how we’ll cope if and when bad times come along.
But one thing’s for sure: we can put plans in place today to make it easier for us to deal with what tomorrow brings.
Risk being without a salary?
With average claims lasting more than nine years, Julie Higman, Aviva’s income protection product manager, tells us how she couldn’t risk being without a salary.
Most of us don’t like to think about how our life would change if we were unable to work.
I’m sure I’m not alone in saying I feel like the weekend always goes too quickly and I’m back at work on Monday morning before I know it.
But what if there was no work on Monday?
Also, probably like a lot of people, I like to save money for things I can look forward to – like a holiday or a weekend away. But what about saving money in case of illness? In the past, it definitely wouldn’t have been a priority.
However, everything changed after my husband became self-employed. I realised that we would be totally reliant on my income if he couldn’t work because he was ill. Doing what I do, it’s no surprise that I have protection in place. What’s more, I understand exactly what I would get from my employer.
But my husband had nothing.
If he became ill and lost his income, we wouldn’t be able to manage for long – certainly not for nine years! So within his first year of being self-employed, I made sure that we took out income protection cover for him. And when we did, I literally felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. The knowledge that, if the worst happened, we’d be able to keep our house – and maybe even still hopefully enjoy the odd holiday – made a huge difference. But the most important thing is that my husband would be able to concentrate on getting better as opposed to worrying how we’d make ends meet.
I strongly believe that income protection should be at the top of the list when talking about protection and I’ve certainly encouraged a number of my friends to take out cover.
If you do nothing else today, speak to your clients about income protection and also encourage them to find out what sick pay they get from their employer - it may be totally different to what they think.