Back pain eased by return to work

Staff off sick with back problems should return to work even if they are
still in pain, according to occupational health doctors.

The call for employers to be proactive in dealing with this common condition
came at a launch in London last week of practical guidance on managing lower
back pain at work.

Back pain costs employers £208 per person per year in time away from work,
according to occupational physician Dr Tim Carter.

He said there was a misconception that back pain requires rest before it
gets better. "If you are mobile early on, it prevents disability and
long-term chronic illness," he said.

Research shows the longer staff are away from work with lower back pain, the
lower their chances of ever returning to work.

Tom Marnell, group HR director of cement company Blue Circle, which funded
the research, said among his 17,000 staff worldwide, a third of
sickness-related absences were due to back pain.

His team of a dozen HR professionals and health and safety team will be
working with staff and striving to improve the company’s sickness absence rates
in this area, he said.

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