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New guidance on making work less of a pain in the back

New guidance for employers, patients and doctors on helping people with back pain return to work will be announced on Tuesday May 5 at the University of Leicester.

It is estimated that it costs society in excess of 12 billion a year with people taking time off work because of back pain. Around 80% of these costs, were not associated with healthcare but due to lost work production and associated wage replacement benefits.

"These figures demonstrate the importance of maintaining people with chronic pain in useful employment," says Professor Paul Watson of the University of Leicester Department of Health Sciences who was among a group of researchers investigating back pain and its impact in the workplace.

"The role of healthcare practitioners in sanctioning work absence has been investigated and this has demonstrated that the health service is currently ill equipped to manage work loss in people with chronic pain and may in itself contribute to the high societal costs."

The reasons why people become disabled by chronic pain are not entirely explained by the severity of pain or the pathology but are better explained by the interaction of complex psychological and societal factors. Treatments which ignore these factors risk perpetuating the problem of chronic disability and work loss.

Professor Watson will present his report at the University of Leicester on Tuesday 5 May at 5.30pm. The lecture takes place in the Ken Edwards Building, Lecture Theatre 1 and is open to the public and free.

Key recommendations are:

  • Assessment of the key, psychosocial barriers to successful rehabilitation
  • Development of an action plan to provide comprehensive treatment to address these barriers.
  • A co-ordinated approach involving of healthcare workers, employers and patients to prevent work loss
  • A recognition that a return to full engagement in society, including work, is beneficial to health of those with chronic pain.

Following the lecture, an evidence based guide for clinicians, patients and employers on how to help people with chronic pain remain in work will be published. This was funded by a group including clinical interest groups, employers and health insurance companies. It will be made available as a free PDF.

Professor Watson said: "This work is extremely topical. The Chief Medical Officer has just released a report identifying the need to improve the management of pain. Dame Carol Black has launched an initiative to try and return people with chronic health problems to work - much of what she recommends is included in our evidence based review and underpins our previous research in this area over the last six years.

"The University of Leicester has been instrumental in performing key research on returning unemployed people with chronic pain to work and we have written a number of reports on the barriers and bridges to employment in this group.

"We are currently conducting research in how healthcare services can be made more effective in assisting people to remain in work by educating GPs on returning people with back pain to work - the results of this work will not be out until next year."


Contact: University of Leicester Press Office
University of Leicester

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