Experts believe that simply sitting at a desk for hours could be behind millions of days lost to sickness every year in the West Midlands.

Figures from the Office of National Statistics revealed the West Midlands recorded a 2.2 per cent sickness absence rate between October 2012 and September 2013, compared to 1.5 per cent in London and 1.8 per cent in the South East.

The data, which shows 131 million days were lost to sickness across the country, revealed sickness levels were higher in the North East and Wales.

West Bromwich Albion performance director Dr Mark Gillett said it showed employers the importance of a healthy workforce, with back, neck and muscle pain a major factor. Dr Gillett, who heads up the Perform Unit at Spire Little Aston Hospital, said more work needed to be done to overcome some of the common ailments that can escalate and lead to time off work.

He said: “When your body begins to encounter repetitive behaviours for a sustained period of time, restrictions begin to develop – typically an office worker will sit at a desk for between four and five hours a day.

“As a result, office workers tend to develop issues in their lower back due to prolonged periods of sitting, as well as the neck because of incorrect posture in their workspace.”

He added: “If acute aches and strains are not dealt with in the short term they tend to become chronic and are a lot harder to eliminate.”

Across the UK, the number of sickness days being lost is falling. In 1993, around 7.2 days were lost per year and by 2013 this had fallen to 4.4 days.

The data showed that last year, the caring and leisure sectors suffered from the most absence, with managers and senior officials the least.

Dr Mark Gillett added: “Getting a healthy body to move in the way it should is a relatively quick process. Regular stretching and incorporating the right level of exercise will help maintain the body’s correct alignment, as well as improving immunity and overall well being.