Three Pillars to Multimodal Pain Management for Your Employees

A conversation with Employee Benefit News

3 min read
Illustration of people in circles of a Ven diagram representing movement, relaxation, and education

Physical pain can affect people in many ways. From the physical aches and twinges to the mental stress associated with the physiological symptoms, pain can have an immense impact on daily life. Since the beginning of the pandemic, musculoskeletal (MSK) pain has become more prominent for people working from home. From poor ergonomic work setups, lack of movement, and hours spent on conference calls, employees are experiencing increases in pain. In fact, MSK pain is the top condition impacting Americans, with one in two adults experiencing an MSK condition.1

Financially, this statistic is staggering–a projected $300 billion was spent on MSK treatment and pharmaceutical claims in 2021, a 38% increase over 2019’s actual spend of $229.9 billion.2 Employers have struggled to keep up; not only are MSK conditions the number one cost driver on employer-provided health plans, they are also the top reason for productivity loss in the United States. On average, an employee with an MSK condition will lose 11.4 days of productivity annually.3

Kaia Health’s Kathleen Frey, senior vice president of client success, and Rick Gailunas, vice president of consultant & broker strategy, recently sat down with Lynn Gresham, freelance writer and former editor in chief for Employee Benefit News, to discuss how employers can support their employees through their MSK pain journey. During the webinar, the trio discussed the importance of multimodal pain management for successful MSK pain intervention.

What is multimodal pain management?

Multimodal pain management focuses on physical interventions for pain and incorporates mental, behavioral, and educational components for a more successful outcome. Physical and psychological aspects of pain need to be looked at from a holistic mind/body focus, said Frey. A three-pillar approach to pain management can help to make lasting habits to decrease pain and increase physical activity for long-term success.

Physical therapy

The first pillar to MSK multimodal pain management aims to tackle the physical aspect of pain. While in-person physical therapy can check this box, the productivity loss associated with attending in-person physical therapy sessions can be a burden to both the employer and the employee. Between commuting to and from appointments, long wait times, and the risks of being in a healthcare facility during the pandemic, in-person physical therapy sessions can be stressful and often result in significant lost time, money, and productivity. Providing access to digital therapy interventions can cut costs significantly and allows the user to complete their therapy in their own time.

Mental and behavioral health support

Providing support for the mental aspects of pain is imperative to a successful treatment program. The mental and behavioral manifestations of pain can inhibit physical treatment progress and bleed into other aspects of a person’s life. The stress associated with physical pain can impact productivity at work and keep employees from performing to their best ability. Providing self-guided sessions for mindfulness and stress relief, as well as digital yoga-inspired programs suitable for all levels, can assist with overall well-being and adherence to treatment plans.


Offering short lessons on lifestyle modifications, including ergonomics and nutrition, can help further treatment progress. Learning about the causes of specific pain, treatment options, and modifications to daily decisions that can impact pain levels is the third pillar in a successful multimodal pain management program.

Physical pain can hamper an employee’s productivity, leading to a loss in not only hours worked, but in overall company revenue and direct and indirect costs from conventional treatment options through employer-provided insurance. Reach out to Kaia Health to learn more about our successful treatment programs for your employees.

Download and watch the recorded webinar with Employee Benefit News here.


  1. Weinstein WI, Yelin EH, Watkins-Castillo SI. The Burden of Musculoskeletal Diseases in the United States: Prevalence of Select Medical Conditions. Bone and Joint Burden. Accessed on March 11, 2022.
  2. Jarecki S, Sleiman K, Sweet B. MSK Forecast Shows Cost Increases in 2021: Goodpath Employer Health Index Results. Goodpath. Accessed March 11, 2022.,cost%20increases%20have%20historically%20been.
  3. Lezin N, Watkins-Castillo S. The impact of musculoskeletal disorders on Americans—Opportunities for action. Bone and Joint Initiative. 2016. Accessed March 18, 2022.

Further Reading