Preventing and managing workplace back pain

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Workplace back painWorkplace back pain is a significant cause of workers compensation claims in Australia, the second-largest contributor to disability and has a major financial burden on business.

The 2015 Konekt Market Report report analysed, over six years, more than 113,000 workers compensation cases as well as other research and concluded 14 per cent of the Aussie population (around three million) – suffer from lower back pain, with 30 to 39 year old males suffering the most.

The report cites an Australian cost-of-illness study that estimates indirect costs of back pain, such as lost earning and productivity to be $8.15 billion.

“This burden is so great that it has compelling and urgent ramifications for health policy, planning and research,” it says in the study paper.

Adding to this is the report’s findings that people often do not report a back injury or ignore it until it becomes serious.

Chirs Maher, Professor at the University of Sydney’s Medical School Musculoskeletal Division said there are many misconceptions about back pain, what causes it and how best to treat it.

”We know that the worker with back pain, their employer and the clinician managing the worker’s back pain may misunderstand back pain,” he said, stating that informing and educating those groups, as well as employees, Is critical.

“Our understanding of how to best manage back pain has changed in the last decade. For example, surgery really has a quite limited role for workers with back pain,” he says.

“Doctors are also now more cautious with opioid medicines because if they are not used carefully they can cause harm.”

Professor Maher said that there is may often be no clear cause for back pain but that prevention tactics can still be used. Those tactics include: “avoiding smoking, having a healthy diet and a healthy amount of alcohol, undertaking physical activity, and using your back sensibly,”.

He adds that it’s important to deal with back pain quickly, rather than waiting to seek treatment.

“The contemporary approach is don’t go to bed,” Maher said adding that staying active will help the recovery process.

“You don’t need an x-ray and you should try to remain at work.”

Professor Maher’s workplace back back pain advice:

  •  Talk with a medical professional such as a GP or physio if the pain does not recede.
  • Stay active at home or work and reduce the amount of bed rest.
  • Think when you use your back.
  • Try and be generally healthy with diet, exercise, reduced alcohol intake.
  • Exercise and don’t sit down for too long.
  • Do not smoke cigarettes.
  • Enjoy life and spend time with loved ones.

Protecting your back on the job:

Given that manual handling increases the risk of back injury it’s important to:

  • Gently stretch cold muscles before you work them.
  • Lift with the thighs and carry loads close to the body.
  • Do not lift or carry loads too heavy for you.
  • Push a load rather than pull it.
  • Seek assistance or use mechanical aids.
  • Arrange the work area so as to minimise the need to bend and/or twist.
  • Break frequently.
  • Gently stretch after work.
  • Exercise to stay strong, lose weight and increase fitness
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Paramount Safety Products is the name behind the ProChoice brand of high quality Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Paramount Safety Products was founded by the late Rob Bird in 1992 and now employs 45 people throughout an extensive distribution network. Offices and distribution warehouses are located in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth.

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