Early intervention and a speedy return to work are essential in the treatment of acute back pain, according to chief rheumatologist and fellow of the charity BackCare Professor Malcolm Jayson.
Speaking at a recent meeting hosted by Swiss Life and BackCare to discuss how the government and UK plc can best tackle back pain, Jayson said the traditional prescription of rest for the treatment of back pain has been shown to be harmful and prolong the disability in many of those affected.
If someone has been incapacitated for six months, he said the chances of getting back to work are only 50 per cent.
Also, he said psychosocial problems, such as a belief that the back pain is harmful, a desire to protect the back and low mood, carry the greatest risk of prolonging the pain.
Several parties at the meeting thought employers should develop a better understanding of the issues involved in treatment and rehabilitation.
Back pain currently costs British business £6bn in lost productivity every year and affects two in five adults in the UK. It can account for 70 per cent of employers’ sickness absence bills.
Back pain is a major cause of claims on income protection products in the life insurance industry and often cannot be attributed to an obvious medical condition.
Experts at the meeting concluded there was a clear role for insurers to intervene earlier in patients’ care with a rehabilitation programme.
BackCare aims to move back pain up the political agenda. The meeting was also attended by Paul Burstow MP, the Liberal Democrat Spokesperson on Social Security, and Eileen Gordon MP.
BackCare has appointed Dr Jane Reeback, a trained rheumatologist, as policy and research officer. Funding for the new part-time post has been made possible by a grant from Swiss Life.
Reeback will strengthen the links BackCare has with professional institutions, government and industry.