Back Pain and the Economy

“Back pain is the most common pain and is certainly the most common type of pain we see as family physicians and in primary care.”(Edward Paul, M.D., Professor of Family Medicine University of Arizona)

According to the Mayo Clinic 80% of all people will have back pain at some time in their lives and it is the most common reason that people go to the doctor or miss work. At any moment in time something in the region of 15% of people are suffering back pain

Back pain is the main cause of absenteeism. Eliminate back pain and you hugely reduce this cost and greatly improve productivity. Most companies regard absenteeism as a fixed cost and, apart from seeking medical certification, pay it little attention.

An IBEC study in 2004 stated absenteeism costs the Irish economy €2.58 billion annually and this equates to an annual cost of € 1,300 per employee. Multiply this figure by the number of employees in your company and you get an estimate of your total cost.

The NHS state back pain is the largest cause of work related absence in the UK. PWC’s research showed that in UK companies, illness and its associated costs accounted for around 90 per cent (£28.8 billion) of the total absence bill (£31.1 billion). Other unexpected absences such as compassionate leave and industrial action made up the remainder.

The prevalence of pain has a tremendous impact on business, in the USA a recent report by the Institute of Medicine indicates that “the annual value of lost productivity in 2010 ranged between $297.4 billion to 335.5 billion dollars.”

Back pain greatly affects productivity. A characteristic of back pain is that its intensity increases in direct proportion to sitting time. So a person working at an office desk for example may experience an increasing level of pain as the working day progresses. The result is a decrease in output and a corresponding increase in the amount of errors made.