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Five Everyday Tips to Prevent and Manage Musculoskeletal Pain

Blue Shield’s senior director of Lifestyle Medicine shares tips to avoid musculoskeletal strain, and three new programs on Wellvolution to prevent and address this type of pain.

By Angie Kalousek Ebrahimi, senior director of Lifestyle Medicine at Blue Shield of California

This news story is also available in Spanish.

While not everyone is familiar with the term “musculoskeletal health,” it’s likely you’ve experienced musculoskeletal pain or know someone who has. Over half of Americans deal with this type of pain, including nearly 40% of Californians, and it affects people of all ages — more than 75% of musculoskeletal conditions impact people under 65.

Angie Kalousek 2
Angie Kalousek Ebrahimi, senior director of Lifestyle Medicine

But what is musculoskeletal health?

The musculoskeletal system is made up of muscles, bones, cartilage, tendons, ligaments and other soft tissues that support your body and enable everyday movement like sitting, standing, walking and exercising.

If you have a musculoskeletal condition, you know that it can negatively impact your quality of life and easily interfere with your ability to complete day-to-day and job-related tasks. Musculoskeletal pain can be acute due to injury or overexertion, or chronic due to underlying conditions like arthritis. The most common form is low back pain, but musculoskeletal conditions also include:

  • Joint pain
  • Carpal tunnel (hand or arm pain caused by pinched nerves)
  • Postural pain (neck, shoulders, low back)
  • Muscle strain
  • Referred pain (pain felt elsewhere in the body than the originating site)
  • Ligament and tendon pain
  • Bone pain 

Here are some everyday actions you can take to help prevent musculoskeletal pain and better manage existing conditions, in addition to consulting with your doctor:

  1. Hydrate: Drink at least eight glasses of water a day. While hydrating cannot treat joint pain, it can help keep your joints healthy. Drinking water right after waking up can also help ease musculoskeletal fatigue.
  1. Take breaks and stretch: It’s important to warm up before exercise, and take breaks to move during other static activities, such as sitting at your desk or in the car. Listen to your body and get up and move to loosen your muscles as needed.
  1. Exercise regularly: Moving your body everyday matters. Musculoskeletal conditions can cause pain, stiffness and inflammation, and regular exercise (swimming, walking, strength training and many other forms) helps reduce those symptoms and strengthens your ligaments and tendons.
  1. Avoid overexertion and repetitive strain: Whether you’re starting a new high-intensity workout regimen or doing house projects that require repetitive movement, be careful to not overexert your body. Take breaks when you need to, stretch the muscles you’re using, and hydrate if you’re feeling stiff.  
  1. Prioritize nutrition: Proper nutrition, including vitamin, protein and fatty acid intake, helps maintain bone, muscle and joint health. Protein, for instance, provides your body with amino acids that are used to build and repair muscles and bones.

Blue Shield of California members can also get help treating and preventing musculoskeletal pain through the Wellvolution platform, which offers three musculoskeletal programs:

  • SworkIt: SworkIt is for everyone, whether or not you have existing musculoskeletal pain. The program accounts for all fitness and mobility levels, and focuses on injury recovery and prevention, with workouts designed to stretch and strengthen tight or weak muscles that may be causing pain.
  • Kaia: Kaia is best for members with moderate musculoskeletal pain, combining virtual training from a health coach to guide members safely through exercises. It’s customizable, with curated exercises for specific pain areas and mobility levels, as well as mindfulness trainings to help reduce anxiety and depression.
  • Sword Health: The Sword Health app is for people with chronic or severe musculoskeletal pain. Members have a dedicated, licensed physical therapist who creates a tailored exercise plan and connects with the member 2-3 times weekly.

For more information about these programs, please visit or