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Back pain bad for business and business bad for backs

Employees believe work is the cause of their back pain

It has long been known that back pain is a major cause of work absence in the UK, but how many employers are aware that four in 10 believe work has caused it?

In a recent survey by, 38% of people in the UK claimed that work caused their back or neck pain and a profit-busting 31% are absent because of it. A further 35% of those questioned believed their employers should put measures in place to try and prevent it.

Why isn’t more being done to prevent the condition? Official figures show an estimated three million days were lost to work-related back disorders in 2014/15, with 223,000 cases annually and an average 13.3 days lost for each case.

And while manual workers have a high prevalence of back pain, the survey also reveals that desk workers are increasingly suffering too, with 31% saying their work stations caused bad posture and back pain (a figure that went up to 41% in the 25-34 age bracket) and 21% say the same of their home work stations.

The results show that seven million people sat for nine hours or more a day, despite a sedentary lifestyle leading to back pain and other health risks such as diabetes, osteoporosis, anxiety and depression. A further 21% confessed to sitting between seven and eight hours per day; 32% between five and six hours; 26% between three and four hours and only 7% sat under two hours. The average amount of time people sat per day was a lengthy five hours and 34 minutes.

The medical profession is now encouraging people to stand up and move more. This has been backed by guidance published in The British Journal of Sports Medicine, which recommended office workers should be on their feet for a minimum of two hours a day during working hours.

For both sexes, back pain also has a detrimental effect on their emotional wellbeing, with 33% admitting to being short tempered and 31% being stressed when they were suffering.

Worryingly, 45% of respondents in the survey said they felt some colleagues don’t take their pain seriously, simply because it can’t be seen, which could provide another reason for them to call in sick.