Most back pain is not due to any serious disease and usually improves within a few days or couple of weeks. If you are affected by back pain, what you do in the early stages is very important. Backs need to keep working and the sooner you start moving and carrying on with normal daily activities the sooner you will start to feel better. The old fashioned way to treat back pain was to advise rest, often for weeks on end. However research into this advice found that sufferers became weaker, stiff, depressed, had more pain and took longer to recover. By getting moving as soon as possible, sufferers maintained physical and mental wellbeing, had less pain and recovered quicker. If at all possible, it is better to take some pain killers and keep moving. Remember that activity is good for you. Our bodies are designed to be active and regular physical activity makes us fitter, keeps us supple, develops muscles and releases natural chemicals that helps reduce pain.
In my early days in Occupational Health, I worked for one of the large manufacturing companies. At the time they had 9000 staff on site and two full time physiotherapists who justified their existence with ease. If someone twisted or pulled something, they were seen within hours. The company also didn’t care if that twist or pull happened in the garden the previous evening. Having physiotherapy on site meant that person came to work, and was treated. Out of a 37 hour week, they were at their desk or workplace for 32 – 34 hours and in treatment 3 – 5 hours. They were not at home for the week costing the business their weekly salary for non attendance.
Now obviously only the largest companies with deep pockets and plenty of staff in one place can provide physiotherapy on site and it is a rarity outside of the larger manufacturing facilities such as the car plants. There are also tax issues to consider in the UK, which can be difficult to surmount for non work injuries.
That does not mean you can’t still make use of physiotherapy. Private sessions are usually between £40 and £60 either via one of the network providers or a local independent practice and people can often be seen within a couple of days. A course of 6 sessions will therefore not cost you much more than £300 – less than a month of statutory sick pay and half the cost of an average week of salaried non attendance. Even if you only pay statutory sick pay, you risk losing working time and production by not treating quickly. For any ill health or injury – act early.
For those keen on chiropractors or osteopaths, I have nothing against them. But, make sure you find a good one, be clear about a session limit and whoever you use, make sure they have the relevant qualifications and insurance.
For those employees for whom early self management and physiotherapy are not successful, you will need an occupational health opinion to help manage a longer term health issue and likely absence.