Back pain & prevention

What are back pain and musculoskeletal conditions?

Musculoskeletal (MSK) disorders include joint conditions such as osteoarthritis, spinal disorders like neck pain, low back pain and prolapsed disc, pain disorders like frozen shoulder and fibromyalgia, strains, sprains and fractures, bone conditions and various genetic and congenital disorders. They can be caused, or worsened, by the work a person does, such as incorrect manual handling, repetitive action, or not having workstation equipment personally adjusted.


MSK disorders, especially back pain, are among the most common reasons for absence at work, accounting for 40% of sickness absence. They can cost organisations thousands of pounds due to loss of productivity, sick pay and cost of replacement cover.

MSK disorders and mental wellbeing are often interrelated. Ongoing MSK problems and chronic pain can lead to lack of sleep, stress, anxiety and depression, resulting in higher levels of sickness absence. Similarly, stress, anxiety and depression can often manifest as MSK pain.

Preventing or minimising MSK disorders and work-related injuries will reduce sickness absence, enhance productivity and save your organisation money. Likewise, by intervening early and supporting employees who develop MSK disorders, you can help them remain in, or return to, work sooner.

  • Musculoskeletal pain and injuries account for 40% of sickness absence
  • Musculoskeletal disorders such as back pain and arthritis cause 9.5 million lost working days each year 
  • Four out of five people develop back pain that lasts more than a day at some stage in their life


What you can do to support back pain and prevention 


There are many ways you can prevent or minimise work related injuries, or support employees who develop them. These include:

  • Manual handling training
  • Back pain prevention workshops
  • Display Screen Equipment (DSE) assessments
  • Regularly updated risk assessments
  • Physical activities and incentives – such as lunchtime walks, cycle to work schemes, desk exercises and gym membership discounts
  • Regularly checking the accident book and sickness records
  • Providing and signposting employees to information, advice and support
  • Encouraging staff and their safety representatives to tell you if they start to develop MSK disorders
  • Self care and healthy lifestyles support
  • Rehabilitation and back to work programmes.

Best-You is a free online platform and app that you and your employees can use as your own personal platform to communicate, create goals and track your progress

Create a private group and invite employees to discuss healthy lifestyles at work – activity, healthy eating or anything else that fits your organisation

Employees can create goals for healthy eating, smoking, alcohol, weight and activity. They can track their progress against their goal each day and Best-You will give motivational feedback

Best-You is full of helpful guidance with a specialised area on mood and stress. Employees can complete self-assessments and discuss this with their employer, if they want to.


Useful Resources and Support for Employers


National Resources

There are lots of resources online that can support you with managing and preventing back pain and musculoskeletal disorders in the workplace and that you can recommend to employees, if appropriate.

Advice from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) about Musculoskeletal Disorders

Public Health England in partnership with BITC have produced a Musculoskeletal Health Toolkit for Employers

For hints and tips on getting your office workers moving, have a look at: NHS - Live Well Fitness for Office Workers, Live Well Flexibility Exercises

Best-You An online platform and app for self-care, create a active group and more 

The NHS One You website provides information and ideas on how to  Move More and they also have the Active 10 app which tracks your walking and shows you when to increase your pace to benefit your health.

Local Support

Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Trust have information and advice on their website with useful tips and exercises which can help you to manage your condition.

These pages also contain information on physiotherapy for those that need it.

Healthy Lifestyles Gloucestershire 

Further information about keeping fit and active can be found on the Healthy Lifestyles Gloucestershire website where you can also find out about our local support services.

Phone: 0800 122 3788


See also Physical Activity