With the global pandemic in mind, the past two years have been extremely difficult for all, and as a result Back Care Awareness Week 2021 (4th to 8th October) will be paying particular attention to:
- Working from Home
- Studying at Home
- Spending more time at Home
We have not forgotten those who are still working from offices, factories, schools, colleges, universities and hospitals too. Back Care Awareness Week 2021 has something for everyone.
Dr Ewa prepared for you a video with simple exercises for you if you suffer from sciatica, back pain.
Most people of working age spend most of their waking lives at work. Indeed, work constitutes a major part of life and can have a major impact on health, for better or worse. As you can imagine, health and wellbeing at work is a large and very active area of research. Overwhelming evidence tells us that psychological factors most consistently predict who will develop back pain – stress simply causes the body to behave more symptomatically. To date, several studies have served to tease out the workplace-specific psychological factors at play.
In 2012, a study which tracked 2,808 workers from 28 different organisations in Norway for two years found that lack of decision control and lack of leadership quality were the most consistent predictors of who would develop back pain 1.
In 2010, a study which tracked 1,704 workers in Israel for three years found that burnout doubled the risk of developing a musculoskeletal disorder, such as back pain 2.
Current physical symptoms
As discussed, stress is the most consistent predictor of back pain in clinical research. In fact, the evidence supports the idea that back pain is one of the most common forms of somatisation. What’s somatisation? Well, ‘somatisation’ is the technical name for this very common process through which psychological stress causes physical symptoms. Put simply, the body functions differently in the context of stress. Without pre-existing psychological factors, the usual physical triggers such as posture and lifting are largely unrelated back pain.
Tension headaches represent the most common and most familiar example of somatisation. Somatisation can also take the form of many other symptoms that people commonly experience, including chest pain, stomach pain, shortness of breath, and insomnia. In a sense, somatisation is ‘normal’ in modern societies where more than 90% of people will experience tension headache and more than 80% will experience back pain at some point in their lives.
However, whilst some people may be occasionally bothered by mild headache, others suffer considerably from multiple concurrent and severe stress-induced symptoms. When this happens, they may be classified as having a ‘somatisation disorder’, meaning that they have developed the general tendency to process stress as physical symptoms. In light of this, our survey included a 15-symptom checklist (PHQ-15) which is used within the NHS and clinical research to help detect somatisation disorders.
Working from home BackCare Brochure
Studying from home BackCare Brochure
Spending more time at Home Brochure
In a survey, undertaken by BackCare Trustee and Chartered Healthy Schools Physiotherapist, Lorna Taylor in conjunction with Voice: the union for education professionals, has produced shocking evidence of the scale of work-related injuries in education and early years and the lack of help for sufferers, despite legislation in place to protect employees. The overwhelming majority of respondents felt that the issue was under-reported, with only 8% actually officially recording their problems. Most didn’t report them or didn’t know how to raise their concerns. Over a third did not report their pain because they feared jeopardising their career. Many staff said that they could no longer sit on the floor, now worked part-time supply rather than full-time, had moved to work with older children, or were forced to take ill-health retirement.
An anonymous questionnaire was mailed to early years and primary teaching professional members of Voice across the UK last year. Members and non-members were also invited to respond online.
98% of respondents reported discomfort which they felt was work-related at some point in their career:
- 88% experienced back pain
- 73% experienced neck and shoulder pain
- 82% experienced Musculo-skeletal Disorders (MSDs)* once a week or more
- 38% had been off work
- 70% had received treatment (NHS, private or both). Several respondents had received hip, knee and back surgery – two in their 30s had undergone back surgery. Private treatment included: physiotherapy, chiropractic, osteopathy, acupuncture, massage, podiatry and orthopaedic surgery.
- 82% reported discomfort once a week or more
- 36% reported daily pain
Work activities causing discomfort:
- 91% bending over low tables
- 85% sitting on children’s chairs
- 71% kneeling at low tables/on the floor.
- Others included: manual handling (lifting/carrying children – off climbing equipment, for nappy changes, if they have fallen), putting up displays, working at child-height computers, bending over laptops in class, standing all day, picking up items from the floor, moving heavy boxes from above head height, working at low whiteboards, physically assisting children with special needs, being outside for long periods in the cold and wet.
TOP 10 tips for Back Care
- Exercise your back regularly – walking, swimming (especially back stroke) and using exercise bikes are all excellent to strengthen your back muscles but anything that you enjoy and helps you keep active will be beneficial.
- Keep active and moving even when you have pain. Gentle walking and stretching will prevent stiffness. Also try to avoid long periods of bed rest as this is counter productive.
- Always lift and carry objects close to your body, bend your knees and your hips not your back and never twist and bend
at the same time.
- Try to maintain a healthy diet and lifestyle as this will help prevent back pain. Quit smoking as it increases your chances
of developing back pain.
- Use painkillers when pain occurs to allow you to carry on being active. If pain is persistent see the specialist.
- Consider your work environment. If you work in an office look at your workspace and ways to adapt it to help you manage your back pain. If your work is more manual in nature try to be aware of and work according to health and safety procedures such as manual handling or loading procedures.
- Try to carry items in a rucksack and avoid carrying single sling bags.
- Always try to maintain good posture. Avoid slumping in your chair, hunching over your desk and walking around with your shoulders hunched up.
- Always use a chair with a back rest and sit with your feet flat on the floor or on a foot rest. Don’t forget to change your sitting position every few minutes
- If you do suffer from backpain caused or made worse by being at work, talk to your employer or HR department. They maybe able to help you come up with adaptations to your work environment, patterns and activities in order to help you better manage your back pain.