Call for return-to-work treatment for back pain

Employers should encourage a quick return to work for back pain sufferers,
new guidance advises

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

Employers should encourage workers suffering from lower back pain to
continue working or to come back to work at an early stage of the illness.

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

Back pain costs an employer £208 per person a year in time off work,
according to occupational physician Dr Tim Carter.

Carter said there is a misconception among employers and staff 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 off work with lower back pain, the lower their
chances of returning to work.

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

Glasgow University’s Professor Gordon Waddell who led the research said,
"OH nurses are there to support staff with back pain to get back to work.
They should not be afraid of tackling the issue."

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