Back Pain: The Strain On Our Economy

Back Pain: The Strain On Our Economy

It is official: on the list of common reasons for long term sickness from work, back pain is the second most cited reason at workplaces in the UK.  It is also the highest occurring reason for long term sickness in manual labour jobs.

According to the British Pain Society, almost 10 million people in the UK suffer with pain daily, which is affecting their private and family life and is pulling them away from their valuable roles in the workforce.

When it comes down to the impact on the country’s purse strings, the total cost of back pain is estimated at approximately £5 billion per year.  In 2003-4, it was found that 5 million working days were lost as a result of back pain and trends suggest that 1 in 100 people are on sick leave every day due to a back problem.

The cost of care is the great contributor to this ever increasing bill.  Findings in the Spine Journal suggest that it can cost just over £1000 to care for a patient with low back pain over a period of one year, which is approximately twice as much as the cost for caring for a person without back pain.  The reason behind the cost difference for back conditions is due to a number of further requirements for sufferers: additional consultations with the hospital, the cost of specialists including with osteopaths, physiotherapists and chiropractors and the costs of radiology and prescription medication.

Another factor is the social care component, particularly when the back pain leads to long term incapacity.  Figures suggest that between 1986 and 1992, back pain disability rose by 104% in comparison to 60% for other reasons.  As a result, there has been an increased dependence on informal carers in such cases, and as a result, “society” experiences a further loss of production through their contribution to the workforce.

The statistics are alarming and do not appear to be improving any time soon.  The question we are left to ponder is: how can we seek to trim some of the fat from the ever-prevalent back pain turkey and minimise the risks to our workers?

According to Professor Steven Bevan of Lancaster University, the answer lies with workplace management.  He states that “workplaces need to be organised to prevent back pain occurring in the first place.  Despite the reduction in the number of EU workers engaging in heavy manual labour, jobs which entail poor posture, twisting, stretching or repetitive movements are still common, and, in some cases, increasing.  Combined with poorer public health (sedentary lifestyles, obesity, etc), some people go to work in poor physical shape which increases the risk of sustaining a back injury or exacerbating an existing one. In addition, employers need to ensure that they have access to early occupational health or physiotherapy interventions for people with back pain. Job retention and managed return to work with reasonable accommodations are powerful tools in preventing short-term absences becoming long-term.”

If you have suffered from a back problem due to work in the last 3 years, speak to Roberts Jackson to see whether your workplace failed to protect you from injury on 0808 252 5504. We have received compensation payouts for many Claimant’s who have suffered back injuries in the workplace, whether it was a one off accident or a cumulative injury over a period of time. No matter what industry you work in or have worked in, we are happy to offer you free legal advice.