Home > Health & Wellbeing > Managing Back Pain in the WorkPlace

Managing Back Pain in the WorkPlace

By: Jeff Durham - Updated: 10 Apr 2013 | comments*Discuss
Managing Back Pain In The Workplace

Back problems and disorders are the most common form of ill health at work. Tackling the problem involves a partnership approach between employers, workers and health and safety representatives, all of whom have a role to play.

The Health and Safety Commission (HSC) has made the tackling of back pain and related Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs) one of its major priorities and, whilst not all MSDs can be prevented, there are things that can be done to minimise the risk.

What Causes Back Pain in The Workplace?

Exact causes of back pain can often be unclear but they are more common in tasks that involve the following:
  • Heavy manual labour
  • Manual Handling in awkward places, e.g. delivery work
  • Repetitive tasks, e.g. manual packing of goods
  • Sitting at a workstation for a prolonged period (e.g. working at computers) if the workstation is not correctly arranged or adjusted to suit the specific individual
  • Driving at Work be it long distances or driving over rough terrain, particularly if the seat cannot be manually adjusted or is inadequately sprung

There are other common instances where back pain can be aggravated in the workplace. These can include stooping, bending or crouching (including poor posture when sat in front of PCs), lifting objects which are too heavy or bulky, pushing, pulling or dragging excessive loads, working beyond normal abilities and limits which cause you to become physically overtired, using poor lifting techniques or lifting items where you should be using a hoist or some other kind of lifting device, stretching, twisting and over-reaching, prolonged periods in one position and situations where parts of the body are subject to vibration, jolting and jarring.

How Can Back Pain in The Workplace be Properly Managed?

It is possible to reduce the incidence and severity of back pain by initially examining what situations could cause harm to people and deciding if you can take preventative action as part of your risk assessment policy. You should then try to eliminate or, at least, reduce the risks that could cause back pain. This could mean changing the way the work is organised or by introducing lifting equipment. It might be possible to redesign the specific task and/or the workplace to take into account the risks and review the situation with the workforce so that you can ensure whether or not any changes have been effective.

Consult with your health and safety representative and ensure that all staff receive information and training in how to avoid back problems. Quite often, it can simply be a matter of educating your staff, e.g. teaching them how to adjust their chair and desk, their VDU and how to sit properly when working at a computer. This is just one obvious example.

Talk regularly to your staff, they know what they find difficult and often have good ideas into ways in which things can be improved. Involving the workforce in discussions about how to improve health and safety will also make it easier to implement changes and workers will be more willing to adapt to changes they have had some input into.

Dos and Don'ts

Prevention is always far better than cure but back pain and MSDs resulting from work are never going to be completely eradicated. If you do suffer with your back, here's a simple list of do's and don'ts that will help you deal with back pain and enable you to get on with your life:


  • Do stay as active as usual, if possible, but see your doctor if your condition worsens or the pain persists over time
  • Do take simple pain relief to cope with the pain
  • Do speak to your employer, worker's representative, health and safety representative to discuss possible remedial action that can help you stay at work
  • Do try to find out more about back pain and ways in which you can help yourself and things that employer's can do to assist you. The Health & Safety Executive can point you in the direction of books on MSDs and also produce a book called 'The Back Book'


  • Don't take to your bed and wait for the pain to diminish. The sooner you get back to normal activity the better
  • Don't worry. Back pain is rarely a sign of a more serious condition and unnecessary worry delays recovery
  • Don't avoid activities simply as a way of avoiding the pain. Although you shouldn't take up gymnastics if you have severe back pain, hurt and pain does not always mean harm

For more information on ways of managing back pain in the workplace and reducing the risks, contact the Health & Safety Executive. Their website also contains many useful links relating to these issues.

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
Why not be the first to leave a comment for discussion, ask for advice or share your story...

If you'd like to ask a question one of our experts (workload permitting) or a helpful reader hopefully can help you... We also love comments and interesting stories

(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
Enter word:
Latest Comments
  • SafeWorkers
    Re: Employment Probation Periods: What You Need to Know
    Slim - Your Question:My daughter was offered a job which she started on Monday this week and during…
    21 August 2017
  • SafeWorkers
    Re: Can my Employer Fire Me?
    Lcb - Your Question:I worked for a company from November 2016 to end of July 2017. After two days off with my 1year old son while he…
    21 August 2017
  • SafeWorkers
    Re: When Your Employer Changes Your Working Hours
    trissa - Your Question:My contract states between 7pm-8pm start for 10 hour shift mon-wed and 7pm-8pm 9 hr…
    21 August 2017
  • Lou
    Re: Being Pregnant at Work
    My boss wants me to work day 7 in a row because he's been let down by other staff members. I'm 22 weeks and found it very stressful…
    21 August 2017
  • Chef Vic
    Re: Food Safety and the Law
    What exactly uk law says about consuming food in industrial food preparation areas? (Eating in restaurants kitchen). Where could I get…
    20 August 2017
  • Marie
    Re: Age Discrimination at Work
    I have worked for a small charity,25-50 employees for 13 years, always as one of two people in my section, the other being the…
    20 August 2017
  • Becca
    Re: Understanding Your Employment Contract
    I'm on a 6 hour contract, and have no specific days, although I've opted to work my 6 hours on a Sunday, anything…
    20 August 2017
  • Worriedworker
    Re: What if Work Makes You Ill?
    Hi i hope someone can help me. I work in a store cafe and we have had no air conditioning for the last two days as its broken. We…
    19 August 2017
  • SafeWorkers
    Re: Sexual Harassment at Work
    Rose - Your Question:I have been sexually assaulted while I was seeking help with Computer to this person , he stood behind and lean…
    18 August 2017
  • SafeWorkers
    Re: Understanding Your Employment Contract
    Biela102 - Your Question:I work 4 on 4 off days and one week I work 36 hours and second week 48 hours and the avarega…
    18 August 2017
Further Reading...
Our Most Popular...
Add to my Yahoo!
Add to Google
Stumble this
Add to Twitter
Add To Facebook
RSS feed
You should seek independent professional advice before acting upon any information on the SafeWorkers website. Please read our Disclaimer.