Helping Sufferers to Stay in Work

Photo: Woman works on a computer

Work in an office can cause
back pain; ©

In 2004 to 2005 approximately 34,000 people in the East Midlands suffered from musculoskeletal disorders affecting their backs, which they believed were caused or made worse by their current or past work. Now medical research charity the Arthritis Research Campaign has awarded a three-year primary care to occupational therapist Carol Coole at The University of Nottingham, to develop more effective ways in which the National Health Service can work with employees with back pain — and their employers — to ensure that back pain doesn’t drive them away from the workplace.

In some areas of the UK, patients receive vocational rehabilitation to help them improve their ability to work. However, this service is patchy and ad hoc, and very few people with back pain have access to it. Since 2000 the Nottingham Back Team — physiotherapists, occupational therapists, nurses, cognitive behavioural therapists and psychologists based at the City Hospital — has run regular group classes at local leisure centres. The programme, offered to some 700 people a year who have had back pain for more than three months, involves graded exercises and activities, relaxation techniques and educational packages.

Coole, who is based at The University of Nottingham’s division of rehabilitation and ageing, now aims to find out if extra support would also be of benefit, such as running more tailored, work-focused sessions with individual employees, and liaising much more closely with employers and job centres.

She said: “Some employers really want to help but don’t know who to ask for advice, while others think their staff are malingering, and the company can’t afford to keep them on. Closer links with local employers will increase their understanding of managing back pain at work.”; Source: University of Nottingham