Lower back pain guide - Preventing, identifying and managing lower back pain providing solutions for wellbeing in work

Lower back pain guide - Preventing, identifying and managing lower back pain providing solutions for wellbeing in work
providing solutions for wellbeing in work

Lower back pain guide
Preventing, identifying and managing lower back pain
Back pain

Understanding back pain.
Back pain is the leading cause of long-term sickness in the UK.(1)
                                                                                                What are the triggers?(3)

                                                                                                Back pain can be triggered by every day activities including:
Back pain will                                                                                  • Bending awkwardly              • Slouching in chairs
affect 80% of                                                                                     or for long periods
                                                                                                                                 • Twisting
the working                                                                                     • Lifting, carrying, pushing
                                                                                                  or pulling incorrectly         • Over-stretching
population at
some time
during their                                                                                    Risk factors(3)
working lives.         (2)
                                                                                                There are some factors that put you at increased
                                                                                                risk of developing back pain which include:

                                                                                                             • Being overweight – extra weight
This guide includes information about back pain, the risk                                                      puts pressure on the spine.
factors, how you can protect yourself against developing back
pain in the future and a range of treatments available.                                                      • Smoking – this may be due to tissue
                                                                                                               damage in the back caused by smoking.
The causes(3)
Lower back pain(4) is rarely anything serious   It can be difficult to diagnose the                          • Pregnancy – the extra weight of
and, with access to the correct information     exact cause of lower back pain.                                carrying a baby is known to place
and advice, most sufferers are able to                                                                         extra strain on the back.
                                                The majority of cases however are not
manage their back pain successfully.
                                                caused by serious conditions and are from
                                                sprains, irritated nerves and minor injuries.                • Stress – can cause tension in the
Back pain and lower back pain are
                                                                                                               back muscles resulting in pain.
common problems and, for most sufferers,
fortunately only lasts a few days or weeks.

2 Lower back pain guide
Preventing back pain

There are several things you can do that can help prevent back pain. One of the best ways to prevent back pain is to
keep your back muscles strong.

                                                                      Myths and reality(7)
  5 ways to prevent back pain(5)
                                                                      There are a number of myths about low back pain, which can act as obstacles, including:
                    Posture – keep your feet flat on the
                    ground when sitting at your desk and              Myth                    Reality
                    keep your back straight.
                                                                      Pain means              Pain can occur without injury. Even with pain, it is possible to con-
                                                                      serious damage          tinue working. Temporary pain is often part of recovery.
                    Lifting – always lift and carry close to          Work caused             Lower back pain is a common complaint across the whole
                    the body, bend your knees and make                my pain                 population. Work can trigger symptom but is unlikely to cause
                    your legs do the work.                                                    any substantial damage.
                    A Health and Safety Executive guide (The Manual
                    Handling Operations Regulations 1992) contains
                                                                      Work will make          The condition is not normally made worse, provided significant risks
                    important information about manual handling.(6)   things worse            are removed. Work may be uncomfortable, but this does not mean
                                                                                              it is doing any harm.
                                                                      Medical treatment       Most people with lower back pain don’t see a doctor. Relying on
                    Sitting – if you are using a keyboard
                                                                      is necessary            doctors or other practitioners is rarely enough to help you back
                    make sure your forearms are horizontal
                                                                                              to work.
                    and your elbows are at right angles.
                                                                      Lower back pain         The opposite is true: activity promotes recovery.
                                                                      must be rested
                    Driving – make sure your lower back is                                    Often going to work, perhaps with temporary adjustments (for
                                                                      Sick leave is needed
                    properly supported. If you are driving a                                  example changing your desk height), is better. Fit notes are better
                                                                      as part of treatment
                    long distance take regular breaks.                                        than sick notes.
                                                                      Don’t return to work    Many people can remain at work without requiring sick leave.
                    Sleeping – make sure you have a good              until 100% better
                    mattress that supports your weight well.

3 Lower back pain guide
Self help treatments

Treating back pain.(8)
There are many treatments that can help back pain and control the symptoms. Here are our top 5.

                                                 1   Medication                2  Hot and cold                 4 Sleeping
                                                Some over the counter          treatments                      position
  1                                             medication can be very         You may find that hot and       Experiment with changing
                      2                         helpful, so talk to your       cold treatments relieve         sleeping positions to take
                                                pharmacist for more advice.    the pain. Hot treatments        some strain off your back.
                                                The following is commonly      include a hot bath or hot       If you sleep on your side,
                                                used to treat back pain:       water bottle to help ease       draw your legs up slightly
                                                                               the pain. Cold treatments       towards your chest and put
                                                • Paracetamol can be
                             3                    effective in treating most
                                                                               include using a bag of frozen
                                                                               vegetables or ice pack.
                                                                                                               a pillow between your legs.

                                                  cases of back pain.
                                                                                                               5   Keep moving
                                                • Ibuprofen is an anti-        3   Manual therapy              It’s important that you do
                                                  inflammatory, so is useful   Combining an exercise           not stay in bed, or become
                                                  for back pain.               programme with a course of      inactive for long periods
                                                • Codeine is a stronger        manual therapy, especially      of time. The more active
                                   4              painkiller, often used       when the pain is persistent,    you are, the quicker your
                                                  in conjunction with          can be very beneficial.         recovery is likely to be.
                                                  Paracetamol.                 Manual therapy is provided      Activity can range from
                                                                               by chiropractors, osteopaths    walking around the house to
                                                • If you also experience       and physiotherapists, so        walking to the shops. Going
                                                  muscle spasms in your        you should speak to your        back to work can also help,
                                                  back, your GP may            General Practitioner for more   as this contributes to your
                                  5               recommend a short course     information (chiropractic and   return to a normal pattern
                                                  of a muscle relaxant, such   osteopathy treatments are not   of activity and this can
                                                  as diazepam.                 widely available on the NHS).   distract you from the pain.

4 Lower back pain guide
Managing lower back pain in the workplace

Rehabilitation support can help you make a phased return to work and often means a faster return to your normal duties.

 Areas to consider when returning to work                           When to seek further treatment(9)
                                                                    Most lower back pain does get better on its own but you should seek medical advice if you
                                                                    have experienced any of the following:
                                                                    • Persistent pain that does not improve         • Numbness around your bottom, legs
                                                                      after a few weeks                               or arms
                                                                    • Loss of bladder or bowel control              • Night pain or progressively worse pain
                                                                    • You have had cancer in the past

                                                                    Further information
 • Recovery – it is important to understand that you do not         Remember that lower back pain is a common complaint and is rarely anything serious.
   need to be 100% recovered in order to return to work.
                                                                    Members of Group Income Protection have access to EmployeeCare, which provides
   Working will aid your recovery and you can look to modify
   your activities accordingly with the support of your employer.   information on health and wellbeing, with practical and emotional advice and support.

 • Ergonomics – it’s important to take regular                      We have also developed a range of Well in Work guides, including physical
   breaks away from your desk and to avoid sitting                  activity and mental health. Click here to download the free guides.
   in a prolonged position for too long.
 • Workstation assessments – make sure you know how
   to sit correctly. Computer screen position, chair height            providing solutions for wellbeing in work        providing solutions for wellbeing in work

   and desk equipment layout are also important factors.
 • Employee Assistance Programmes – can provide effective              Physical activity guide                          Mental health matters

   support around health and wellbeing so speak with                   Get active and stay active                       Taking care of your mental health

   your employer to see if you have access to one.
 • Work demands – look at requesting reasonable
   adjustments to your role, like a phased return to
   work, alternative duties and increased rest breaks.

5 Lower back pain guide

   1    http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/workplacehealth/Pages/backpainatwork.aspx
   2    http://www.backcare.org.uk/factsandfigures
   3    Information adapted from NHS website. http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/Back-pain/pages/causes.aspx
   4    Lower back pain is defined by NICE as soreness or stiffness in the back between the bottom of the ribcage and the top of the legs.
   5    Prevention of back pain adapted from NHS website. http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Back-pain/Pages/Prevention.aspx
   6    The Health and Safety executive contains important information about The Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992. See this link for full
        details. http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/indg143.pdf.
   7    Myths adapted from “Tackling Musculoskeletal Problems: A guide for clinic and workplace identifying obstacles using Psychosocial Flags
        Framework” Author: Nick Kendall, Kim Burton, Chris Main, Paul Watson.
   8    Treatments of back pain adapted from NHS website. http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Back-pain/Pages/Treatment.aspx
   9    When to seek further treatment taken from http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2012/may/20/getting-treatment-for-back-pain

   Disclaimer: This guide is intended as guidance only and should not be used instead of professional advice. For professional advice please speak to your General Practitioner.

     Employee Support
     Depending on which type of benefit your employer has with Canada Life, you will have
     access to a range of free services which we offer to support employee wellbeing.
     Speak to your employer for further information.


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