Musculoskeletal issues and back pain are the largest reported reason for sickness absence in the UK, according to the NHS, with an estimated 30.6 million days lost annually because of it.

What causes back pain at work?

The Health and Safety Executive has reported that over 2.5 million people in the UK visit their GP with back pain each year and estimate that there are around 1.1 million people suffering with some form of back complaint caused by work; with approximately 80% of people experiencing some form of back pain during their lifetime. But what causes it?

Although painful, back pain isn’t long term in many cases. Typically, the pain generally lasts from a few days to a few weeks. Back pain can be caused by many situations, but it’s more prevalent in certain professions; such as roles that involve heavy manual labour or handling, repetitive tasks, extensive driving or sitting at a workstation for a long time.

If you’re unfortunate enough to suffer from work-related back pain, below are some coping methods you can use. Please note, like all health disorders, you should seek advice from your GP if you are concerned about back pain and its effect on your wellbeing.

Six ways to cope with work-related back pain

  1. Take regular breaks whilst at work. Make an effort to get up and stretch. A brief stroll on your lunch break can be a great way to fit in some light exercise and stretch your back.
  2. Throughout the day, stay active. You can also try some back pain exercises at home, to help ease your discomfort and keep active.
  3.  If you’re office based, sit up comfortably in a chair that supports your lower back. During computer work, ensure that you adjust your chair height so that your forearms are comfortably resting on the desk and your elbows are roughly at right angles. Sitting badly in front of a computer for hours can cause back pain, so remember that the body can only tolerate being in one position for a short period of time before you need to adjust! If you’re not sure about your seating position and workstation, ask your manager to arrange a workplace assessment for you.
  4. Vary your tasks so that you avoid the same movements using the same part(s) of your body. For prolonged periods, if you are doing the same movement for a long time, try and change the way you perform the movement or go and do another activity to break it up.
  5. Co-operate with arrangements your employer introduces to reduce risks. This may be through putting systems or equipment in place for you to use or a process for reporting accidents, near misses or symptoms of ill health. If you spot any risks in the workplace you should inform your employer immediately.
  6. See the professionals such as your GP, a chiropractor, physiotherapist or osteopath. Not only will you get skilled help to ease and manage back pain, you will also get advice on how you can help prevent it re-occurring. They may suggest things you can do on a daily basis to help relieve the pain and discomfort.

Talk to your employer

Whilst not all back pain can be prevented, your employer has an important role in monitoring workplace factors associated with these conditions, and encouraging employees to report back pain at an early stage and seek appropriate treatment. Therefore, ensure you talk to your employer and let them know about any health problems you may be suffering from. Report any pain to your employer or health and safety representative so they can conduct a risk assessment and put appropriate measures in place to help ease your discomfort.

If you do suffer from back pain did you know that with a health care cash plan from Sovereign Health Care you can claim money back towards a range of everyday health costs including physiotherapy, chiropractic, osteopathy and much more? Cover starts from just £2.52 per week. To find out more about what we cover click here, or get in touch with us.

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