11.06.2004

Back Pain in the Workplace: Prevention and Management

In any business, large or small, workers are the most valuable asset. Back
disorders are the most common form of ill health at work.

Tackling back pain needs good management and a partnership approach. Employers,
workers and others, such as safety representatives and trade union safety
representatives, all have roles to play in this approach.


This information is designed to help employers and managers prevent and manage
the effects of back pain in the workplace, particularly in small businesses.
Employees should also find it useful.


Who gets back pain?

Most of us have back pain at some time. Usually the pain is not due to anything
serious. If treated correctly it can disappear within a matter of days or
weeks. Many people manage the problem themselves without seeing their doctor.
But those who experience severe pain, those worried about their back pain or
those for whom the pain persists or suddenly gets worse, should see a doctor.
When the back is painful, activity may be limited for a short time but that
does not necessarily mean that continuing to stay active, or at work, will do
any harm.

What causes back pain?

Most back pain does not have an identifiable cause. Worrying about back pain
may make it worse and hold back recovery. It is natural to worry about the pain
you are experiencing, but you should be assured that in most cases, pain is not
due to anything serious and can be overcome by following simple advice.

What can we do about back pain?

In the past, the accepted response to back pain was bed rest. Evidence now
shows that rest does not help recovery. Trying to reduce the pain by avoiding
activity can lead to a much longer recovery time and possibly long-term back
pain. It is much better to keep to normal levels of day-to-day activity, using
simple pain relief if needed. Manipulative treatment can help in some cases. In
particular, having a painful back need not necessarily stop anyone going to
work. In fact, the longer someone is off work because of back pain the less
likely they are to ever go back. A gradual return to work, with modified tasks,
will often help recovery.

Preventing work-related injuries, including musculoskeletal disorders such as
back pain, and managing them in the workplace is one of the priorities for the
Health and Safety Commission (HSC).

HSE's key messages about musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) are:


  • you can do things to prevent or minimise MSDs;
  • the prevention measures are cost effective;
  • you cannot prevent all MSDs, so early reporting of symptoms, proper
    treatment and suitable rehabilitation is essential.

Further Information


AplusA-online.de - Source: Britain's Health and Safety Executive (HSE)