Is Your Job Killing You?
This advice will help you to understand the causes of back pain and give advice on what to do if you are a sufferer. Knowing what the risks are can help you to reduce the possibility of developing back pain.
Causes of back pain
Back pain is common. Nearly everyone is affected by it at some time. For most people affected by back pain episodes are nearly always short-lived.
- The exact cause of back pain is often unclear, but back pain is more common in work roles that involve:
- repetitive tasks – such as manual packing of goods
- force – heavy manual labour, handling tasks, pushing, pulling or dragging heavy loads
- posture – poor/ awkward postures such as stooping, bending over, crouching, stretching, twisting and reaching
- duration – prolonged periods in one position, for example working with computers or driving long distances or working when physically overtired
- vibration – operating vibration tools
- cold temperature – working in low temperature environments e.g. outdoor working in winter
Dealing with back pain
Sometimes the pain can make you miserable but you should still take control of the pain.
In the early stages:
avoid bed rest – prolonged bed rest is harmful
stay active (including work) – your back is designed for movement so the sooner you start doing your ordinary activities the better use prescribed pain killers preferably taken at regular intervals (Paracetamol or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) heat or cold applied to the sore area may help
- seek help from a qualified professional (osteopath, physiotherapist or chiropractor)
- short course of manipulation/ acupuncture can help relieve back pain for some
- a structured exercise program tailored to your needs (to include aerobic activity, muscle strengthening, postural control and stretches) may help relieve pain
- stay at work – or early return to work, with modifications if needed
Work and back pain
Long-term unemployment can be a serious consequence of back pain. Your employer and you play a very important role in keeping you at work.
Report back pain to your employer and to your safety representative if there is one in your workplace.
Off work and suffering back pain
General information and advice on managing sickness absence and return to work can be found in our Sickness absence section.
If there is no occupational health provider available, your GP or safety representative may be able to discuss possible work restrictions or adjustments.
You can also suggest any practical workplace adaptations or alterations which might help you to cope while you return to full time working. Also keep in regular contact with your employer to make them aware of your situation, and to discuss what adjustments might be needed once you are ready to return.