Back pain is a major health concern for workers and something that is likely to affect a large percentage of adults in Ireland during their lifetime. The National health survey found that 19% of Irish people reported suffering from lower back pain over the previous year which makes it is the most commonly reported health condition in Ireland ahead of High blood pressure, asthma, heart disease, depression and diabetes. Over 25% of doctor visits in Ireland are due to back pain issues.
Often back pain is a result of a sudden incident or injury, continued poor postural habits, or can be simply the accumulation of physical stress on the spine. However, there are other causes too, such as inflammatory conditions, or, in rare but more serious cases, problems such as progressive diseases affecting bones and joints.
Triggers of back pain can vary from one of movements such as standing up from your office chair to ongoing triggers such as regular lifting.
Luckily there are lots of steps that can be taken to reduce the risk of developing back pain by employees:
- Keep fit – regular exercise such as walking, and swimming are great for building muscle strength. Pilates is a great gentle way to build up core muscle strength and help prevent further back problems.
- Loose excess weight – Excess weight can put a lot of pressure on the back.
- Improve posture – it is important to be conscious of posture while walking and sitting at your desk. It can be so easy to slouch while at your desk so take short breaks from sitting, keep your feet flat on the floor, adjust your monitor height so your head so your head is in a neutral position with the ears directly above the shoulders.
- Take care when lifting – If your job involves lifting it is important to bend knees and hips and not your back.
- Manage stress – relaxation techniques can help reduce stress.
- Take regular breaks.
Employers can also take some steps to help reduce risk to employees.
Also, employers can help reduce the risk to employees by providing training and minimising activities such as prolonged sitting, driving or manual handling. As part of an employer’s duty of care to employees a risk assessment should be carried out to identify the potential sources of back pain in the workplace.