A new study has found that muscle and joint pain account for around half of absences from work.
The research, carried out by the Work Foundation, also showed that around two-thirds of permanent incapacity in the European Union was caused by chronic musculoskeletal pain.
There are around 40 million sufferers across Europe, with around 40% having to give up work due to their condition.
The report claimed the cost to society due to muscle and joint pain is around £221.5 billion (240 billion euro).
Managing director of Work Foundation, Stephen Bevan, said such disorders have a "serious, negative impact on the EU workforce". He added that in the UK alone, 9.5 million working days were lost in one year.
TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said the report "highlights what trade unions have been demanding for many years, which is access to early rehabilitation for those with muscle and back problems."
He said the process of getting a referral from a GP may take months, allowing the condition to become chronic.