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Occupational Health


Most people have back pain at some time during their life and it often does not have an identifiable cause. Physical demands at work are usually only one of the factors contributing to back pain; however, it can be aggravated by certain work tasks.

Research shows that rest does not necessarily help recovery in fact avoiding all activity is likely to lead to longer recovery time. It is much better to continue normal levels of day-to-day activity, using over-the-counter pain relief as advised by the pharmacist but self-help guidance may be sufficient.

Preventing problems at work

All new staff who will undertake heavy manual handling tasks should be aware of the associated risk assessments and have completed manual handling training. Office based staff should ensure that they are comfortable at their desk and staff working in a laboratory setting should ensure that their work area and equipment used is set up to avoid the risk of back problems.  Computer health and laboratory health guidance should assist with ensuring a correct work set up and the prevention of back problems. Further information and guidance about back pain and work can be found here

Reporting and treating problems

If treated correctly back pain can disappear within a few of days without seeing a doctor. Maintaining normal levels of day-to-day activity and taking simple pain relief should help. Having a painful back need not necessarily stop anyone from attending work but some task may need to be temporarily modified tasks i.e. tasks that involve lifting heavy weights or pushing and pulling.  In fact the longer someone is absent from work because of back pain the more difficult it is to get back to work.

Staff who are experiencing severe back pain, worried about their back pain, or whose pain persists or suddenly gets worse, should see their own general practitioner (GP) for advice and treatment.  A management referral to Occupational Health will trigger an appointment with a specialist occupational health adviser for an assessment and specific advice to include any reasonable work restriction or adjustments that may help.   Physiotherapy or osteopathy may help in some cases help identify back problems that may be more significant.