Lower back pain is common and can be extremely painful. It can be difficult to cope with the severe pain but fortunately it is rarely due to serious disease. There are things that employers and workers can do to manage back pain and other musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), in the workplace. People can be helped to remain in work or helped to make an earlier return to work.
Living with back pain
Most back pain is not caused by any serious damage or disease. The pain usually improves within a few weeks, at least enough to allow you to get on with your life.
Attack of back pain
Resting for more than a day or two does not usually help and may prolong the pain. Your back is designed for, and needs to be kept, moving. The sooner you restart your ordinary activities the sooner you will feel better.
Use simple methods to deal with the pain, over the counter pain killers such as paracetamol, heat or cold applied to the sore area may help or manipulation, if done by a qualified professional physiotherapist, osteopath or chiropractor can also help relieve back pain; you should begin to feel the benefit within a few sessions. It is not a good idea to have long term manipulation treatment.
We are not suggesting it will be easy to get your back moving when it is painful. Try to find activity that suits you and steadily increase your level of activity.
- Do a little bit more each day if the pain has been restricting your movement.
- Do not stay in one position for too long.
- Get up and stretch regularly.
- Move about and take some walks, building up your activity as you get stronger.
Back pain and work
Suffering from back pain does not mean you must automatically be off work. Inactivity and bed rest can increase the chance of disability so it is in your interest to remain active unless your doctor tells you not to.
If you have back pain and suddenly notice any of the following very rare symptoms you should see a doctor straight away:
- Difficulty passing or controlling urine.
- Numbness around your back passage or genitals.
- Numbness, pins and needles, or weakness in both legs.
- Unsteadiness on your feet.
If you have other warning signs with back pain, for example:
- Severe pain which gets worse over several weeks (especially at night or when lying down).
- Recent accident/trauma.
- Unexplained weight loss.
- History of cancer.
- Feeling unwell/ fever.
If you are experiencing constant pain the advice on dealing with an attack of back pain will not apply to your particular circumstances. We recommend that you consult your GP if you have not already done so.
Advice for Employers:
This information in this section will help you comply with your legal requirements and minimise the risk to your employees of developing back pain or making existing back pain worse.
Advice for Employees:
These pages 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.