Half of UK workers suffer back pain

One in five off sick as a result

Half of UK workers have suffered from back pain in the last year, with one in five taking time off work as a result.

A study of 1,600 16 to 65 year-olds by Nuffield Health found that the majority of sufferers have a long-term condition.

Of those who have experienced back pain in the past 12 months, a third had lived with the condition for more than a year, a quarter for more than two years, and 15% for more than five years.

One in five people who responded said that back pain interfered with their work and home life ‘most days’, with one in 20 people saying they lived with constant pain. For those aged over 55, that figure doubles to one in ten.

Almost half of those surveyed said they had sought treatment via their GP, but a third said they had failed to find a successful treatment solution.

Of those who found a successful treatment, a third used physiotherapy, one in five used exercise, and 7% required surgery. 

Dr Andy Jones, group medical director at Nuffield Health, said: “Back pain affects a huge number of people on a daily basis. If these figures reflect the wider working population you have a situation where many thousands of people are suffering permanent, debilitating back pain.”

Manoj Krishna, consultant spinal surgeon at Nuffield Health Tees Hospital, said back and neck pain often lead to depression and long-term sickness. 

He said: “Early treatment offers the best results but often patients are caught in a dilemma between their pain on the one hand and a fear of treatment on the other.”

Figures released last week by the Office for National Statistics showed that musculoskeletal problems accounted for 34.4 million lost working days in 2011, more than any other illness. 

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