02 October 2017

The Health Insurance Group supports National Back Care Awareness Week

The Health Insurance Group is giving its full support to this year’s National Back Care Awareness Week, which takes place 2 to 6 October 2017.

According to the Health and Safety Executive, musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) account for 41%1 of all ill health cases and 34% of all working days lost due to ill health. Back pain is one of the top common causes of absence from work throughout the country. It costs the UK economy around £15 billion every year, as over four million working days are lost because of the condition. Furthermore, about 80% of the UK population will suffer from back pain at some point in their lives.

Work-related MSDs are a group of painful disorders that can affect the body’s muscles, joints, tendons, ligaments and nerves, with lower back pain being the most common MSD.  Figures from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) show that MSDs and related injuries cost society more than £5.7 billion.

MSDs and their effects worsen over time and are caused either by the work itself or by an employee’s working environment.  Repetitive strain injuries, repetitive motion injuries, cumulative trauma or soft tissue disorders are probably more familiar names for MSDs.  All involve some kind of movement such as bending, straightening, gripping, holding, twisting or reaching.  None are particularly harmful in daily life but what makes them so hazardous is the continual repetition, sometimes in a forceful manner.

Brett Hill, Managing Director of The Health Insurance Group comments, “We are delighted to give our support to National Backcare Awareness Week. Almost everyone will suffer back pain at some point, but poor working practices can cause serious problems that lead to long-term injuries.  The prevention of back problems requires careful management. 

“It’s in everyone’s interest for staff to be healthy and productive.  Research shows that looking after your workforce actually saves money, so it is important that employers recognise these benefits. With many people now working until later in life, employees should be encouraged to develop and maintain healthy habits to give themselves the best possible chance of staying well in work for longer.”

MSDs are common, costly and painful for both people and businesses.  MSDs can be debilitating and long-term so employers need to create an environment where people feel comfortable to disclose their condition or concerns, making it easy to seek help.

Top tips to prevent MSDs and back pain at work

  • Adjust your chair to avoid back pain – pick one that allows your lower back to rest against lumber support
  • Arranging your work space into the optimum position will work wonders – wrong desk set up and awkwardly arranged computer equipment can cause injuries and pain associated with the neck, shoulder, back and arm, as well as fatigue with eyestrain
  • Sit within easy reach of your keyboard – your torso should be about an arm’s length away from the keyboard
  • No more phone cradling – pinning your phone between your shoulder and ears is murder on your neck and upper back muscles
  • Keep your feet flat on the floor and shoulder width apart
  • Position your knees at 90 degrees when sitting, directly over your ankles – this will keep your spine comfortably upright
  • Lift safely – learning and following the correct method for lifting and handling objects can help prevent back pain
  • Take regular breaks and exercise – break up long periods of sitting to give your muscles a chance to relax and prevent them becoming stiff and tense
  • Treat back pain straight away

Brett Hill continues, “HR can play an important first step to educate the workforce about MSDs and the problems they can cause, both within and away from the workplace. If workers are aware of MSDs and educated about what they are, where and why they happen, they will naturally take more responsibility and greater ownership of the problem. It’s then about creating a system to effectively manage any problems that you find, as well as promoting prevention and lasting benefit.”

Actively managing an MSD through specialist occupational physiotherapy can have a transformational effect for both employers and employees, while a relationship with a healthcare partner can give you an insight into how others have managed the problem within a budget, using occupational health providers to help spot potential problems, and health insurance products to help fund treatment when problems arise while minimising time off work for the affected employee.

1 http://www.hse.gov.uk/aboutus/strategiesandplans/health-and-work-strategy/musculoskeletal-disorders.pdf