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Top tips for relieving back pain whilst at work

Mr Jonathan Bull

New research has revealed that just under 6 in 10 (59 percent) Brits have experienced back pain whilst at work. Despite it being such a common problem, prevalence though, workers aren’t taking action which could lead to a potential ‘ticking timebomb’ for UK businesses. Contributor Mr Jonathan Bull, Consultant Neurosurgeon and Spinal Surgeon – Bupa Cromwell Hospital.

Released by Bupa Cromwell Hospital the findings show that out of the respondents who have experienced back pain at work, just over a third (34 percent) have been forced to take time off due to this back pain. 

Despite this, 45 percent of Brits have never sought medical advice for back pain, with almost a third (30 percent) of those believing it wasn’t worth speaking to a doctor about and a quarter thinking it would go away on its own. 

Mr Jonathan Bull, Consultant Neurosurgeon and Spinal Surgeon, Bupa Cromwell Hospital, said; “Many people who suffer with back pain in the workplace usually don’t seek medical advice as they believe they can treat it themselves or it will go away on its own. 

“Backs are complex structures comprising of vertebrae bones of the spine, cartilage or discs, muscles, tendons and nerves. Backs play an important role in supporting and moving our bodies. When back pain occurs it can have an impact on us physically and mentally.

 “It is important that if you have severe pain or if you are unwell and unable to work due to back pain that you speak to a healthcare professional. X-Rays and MRI scans can be conducted to detect spinal injuries and your doctor will be able to advise you on how best to treat strains, sprains or trapped nerves.”

Triggers of back pain can vary from heavy lifting, posture whilst sitting at a desk, stress or long-distance driving and many employers have training in place to help prevent back pain. Despite this, two fifths of respondents hadn’t done anything to prevent back pain whilst at work.

A quarter of employees had taken regular breaks to help relieve pain, 28 percent of those currently employed in the finance sector had requested special desks. 

Mr Bull continues; “If you are struggling with back pain due to work, I would recommend speaking to your employer about ways to help relieve it. This can include special chairs and standing up desks if you work in an office environment. If you need to take time off due to the pain then do, back pain can be made worse because of stress.”

Mr Bull highlights top tips for relieving back pain:

Stay active – If you are experiencing back pain, staying active and continuing with your day- to-day tasks can help to relieve pain, as resting can make it worse. If you are at work, try using a standing up desk and taking regular breaks where you move around the office. You can also try exercises and stretches or using a hot or cold compress for short term relief.  

Speak to a doctor – Our research highlights that 45 percent of Brits have never sought medical advice for back pain. If you are struggling with back pain that persists over a period of time or stops day-to-day activities, then I would encourage speaking with a doctor or medical professional. They will be able to provide treatment options for pain and investigate reasons as to why it has occurred as there may be a more serious problem.

Switch things up – If you are lifting heavy loads, use lifting devices to help you. Try to alternate physically demanding tasks with less demanding ones. If you work at a computer, make sure that your screen, keyboard, mouse and chair are positioned correctly. If you frequently talk on the phone and type or write at the same time, place your phone on speaker or use a headset. Avoid any unnecessary bending, twisting and reaching. 

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