Absence from Work Due to Back Pain

A significant amount of work absence is attributed to back pain. A lot of people suffer from back pain at certain points in their life. The prospective studies in the working population vary with the workplace settings and design. However, it is seen that on average an individual with health problems takes around 17.6 days off work. This varies depending on the number of injuries, ill health cases, stress, depression, or musculoskeletal disorders.

Companies don’t like it, they lose money. You don’t like it either, as it a terrible feeling to be in pain and take longer days off work, which can affect your performance and personal life as well.

This content piece, therefore, gives guidance on the causes of back pain and injuries and how to prevent them to minimize the sickness absence rate at work.

Back Injuries at Work

Nearly 16 million Americans live with chronic ailments like back pain, and their symptoms can affect their daily life and work operations. It is a leading cause of disability even for those whose work tasks do not involve lifting, loading, handling, or other manual labor.

However, the activities that involve a high risk of injuries are:

  • Bending & twisting
  • Heavy lifting
  • Working for long hours without breaks
  • Using improper techniques
  • Inappropriate & uncomfortable working posture
  • Extreme or inadequate working conditions (extreme hot or cold weather, inadequate lighting, disturbed environment)

Causes of Back Pain

It is a well-known fact that medicine has a lot to learn regarding back pain. Nearly everyone is affected by back pain in the short or long term.

The exact cause of back pain is still not known, however, below are some common causes of back pain to occur:

1. Repetitive Tasks

Repetitive tasks at work can be a major cause of back injuries or pain. Workers working in warehouses or manufacturing industries are more prone to these injuries where the work involved is the manual packing of goods and products.

2. Force

Force exerted at work is also another reason for back pain. The tasks that involve heavy manual labor, pushing, pulling, handling, lifting, or loading operations require a lot of effort and force which in turn can result in back aches or injuries.

3. Poor Posture

Improper working posture like stooping, bending over, stretching or twisting can lead to an awkward posture which in turn can result in severe health implications.

These health issues might not appear in the beginning but develops over time if workers do not pay attention to them.

Therefore, it is very important to identify the early signs to avoid severe health implications.

4. Temperature

Extreme temperatures or weather conditions at work can also trigger back pain, working in low temperatures or outdoors in winter. Therefore, it is advisable to keep track of it and choose the optimum temperature for work.

5. Lack of Exercise

Inactivity or lack of exercise seems to be another contributing factor. Individuals who spend more than the usual time at their desks working and sitting in awkward poses may experience backaches or other musculoskeletal injuries at some point in their life.

Taking regular short breaks, moving your body every day for at least 15 to 30 minutes, and stretching can help minimize the risk of injuries.

Impact of Back Pain on an Employee

Below are some major impacts of Back Pain on an employee’s health and well-being:

1. Reduces Productivity

While long-lasting absenteeism and missed working days are more noticeable among managers and employers, their counterpart, presenteeism, is more damaging to the productivity of an employee if they are facing health problems.

It means that a worker comes to work but is unable to perform their duties due to the symptoms of the ailment. It will alternatively decrease their productivity and motivation to perform well in their normal work tasks.

2. Makes it Harder to Make Decisions

An individual suffering from chronic back aches and injuries finds it difficult to adjust to the changing environment. It also leads to poor decision-making, lack of prompt response, and being inactive during normal work activities.

3. Costs a Lot of Money

Chronic ailments and injuries at work not only impact an employee’s health but also leads to a huge out-of-pocket cost to businesses. It is normally seen that physical therapy sessions cost companies around $20 – $55 per session which seems like a trivial cost but adds up for each employee over time.

The Solution to the Problem

When it comes to finding the solution to the problem, requires a joint effort of both employers and employees to find the root cause of the problem and implementing practical actions to minimize the health risk.

Employers must arrange adequate training sessions for their workers and employees which involve sickness absence training, back care training, manual handling training, general safety training, and other related training sessions like these.

Along with this, everyone’s active involvement also plays a crucial role to overcome the problem and create and maintain a safe workplace for everyone.

Bottom Line

An overwhelming majority of industrial workers experience back pain and related injuries. Those in managerial roles and responsibilities for the health and safety of their staff need to have practical approaches in place to overcome the problem and create a safe workplace.