This article is from RISQ Consulting’s Zywave client portal, a resource available to all RISQ Consulting clients. Please contact your Benefits Consultant or Account Executive for more information or for help setting up your own login.
A new study published in The Lancet Rheumatology medical journal revealed that low back pain remains the leading cause of disability globally. In 2020, 619 million people worldwide suffered from low back pain. That figure is expected to jump to 843 million by 2050. Furthermore, the economic toll on the United States alone amounted to $2.2 billion.
The study identified the following main risk factors that account for almost 40% of cases:
- Work-related ergonomics
Low back pain was higher among females than males in all age groups. The peak impacted age was 85 years, and researchers noticed that most countries lack specific recommendations on how to care for an older person with low back pain.
Fifteen percent of the U.S. workforce report 10.5 lost workdays per year from chronic low back pain.
Researchers estimate that low back pain is the root cause of 264 million lost workdays for Americans. If not addressed, researchers noted that low back pain could also result in chronic health conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, mental health conditions, invasive medical procedures and significant disability.
Various aspects of work can lead to back pain, including sitting at a desk all day, engaging in repeated movements (e.g., twisting and rotating the spine) and lifting or moving heavy objects. To try to get ahead of work-related back pain, employers can consider the following strategies to reduce back pain in the workplace:
- Examine the workplace and look for ways to reduce the chance of injury. For instance, the way materials, parts and products are transported may be able to be adjusted to relieve the burden on employees. Also, consider altering the layout of workstations to be more ergonomic.
- Promote healthy lifestyles, including physical activity and weight management.
- Provide training to management and workers regarding the risks of workplace injuries and ways to avoid injuries.
- Develop company policies that support a workplace culture of good health, safety and injury management (e.g., ergonomics, workplace safety, disability management and return to work).
As low back pain remains the leading cause of disability, employers have an opportunity to develop policies and encourage proper workplace ergonomics in an effort to reduce injuries and disability claims.
Contact us for additional workplace economics guidance.