“Back Pain Is the Biggest Cause of Disability on the Planet”: World Spine Day

“Back Pain Is the Biggest Cause of Disability on the Planet”: World Spine Day

October 16, 2021, is World Spine Day! This world-wide event is observed yearly by health professionals and health advocates to bring awareness to the importance of spinal health and well being. The theme for 2021 is Back 2 Back, which reflects the need to reset and refocus on spinal pain and disability as part of the global burden of disease. October is also Global Ergonomics Month, an international outreach campaign promoting human-centered design through the science, application, and profession of ergonomics. As Occupational Therapists, we know that proper ergonomics is important to maintaining spinal health.

According to spine experts, back pain is the “biggest single cause of disability on the planet” and as much as 80% of the population will experience a back problem at some point in their lives (World Spine Day, 2021). Back pain is one of the most common reasons for missed work and accounts for more than 264 million workdays lost every year (American Chiropractic Association). Most cases of back pain are mechanical or non-organic, and not caused by other serious medical conditions, which means that back pain is often preventable (ACA). We can do our part to reduce the global burden of back pain by spreading awareness of spinal health and supporting our employees in taking preventative action.

Back Pain and the Workplace

Back pain is caused by accidents, illnesses and disorders, and from workplace injuries. Those who are older, unfit, or overweight and those with poor posture, arthritis, or psychological stress are also more at risk of back pain (ACA).

Some job positions also put employees at higher risk of acquiring a back injury. These positions include careers where the employee needs to sit at a desk for long periods of time, long distance drivers, construction workers or other positions that involve heavy lifting, and careers that involve awkward positioning, such as beauticians.

Workplace back injuries occur due to the following:

  • Twisting or bending awkwardly, especially when lifting or carrying weight
  • Sitting or standing in a static position for long periods of time, especially if you are in an awkward position
  • Repetitive strain from consistently using the same muscles
  • Stress from the workplace can contribute to back and other pain issues

Chronic back pain and Musculoskeletal Disease are also linked to depressive symptoms. Putting one’s spine at risk causes long-term health concerns and is psychologically damaging as well as physically damaging. Prevention is the best route to avoid disability and time off work; however, there are intervention strategies that can decrease symptoms and assist the employee with their health.

What Can Employees Do?

  • Apply proper ergonomics to your standing, bending, and sitting positions.
  • Take micro-breaks throughout the workday to stretch and move your body (1 to 2 minutes every 30 minutes).
  • Modify specific seated behaviours so that they can be performed while standing (e.g., talking on the phone).
  • Keep your body strong – incorporate exercise in your day with cardio, strengthening and stretching to develop your core muscles.

What Can Employers Do?

Works Cited

World Spine Day, 2021, http://www.worldspineday.org/ “Back Pain Facts and Statistics,” American Chiropractic Association, https://www.acatoday.org/Patients/What-is-Chiropractic/Back-Pain-Facts-and-Statistics

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