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Treatment delays and ignorance over exercise increase back pain misery and cost to society say physios

CSP press release published on 9 October 2007

In a recent survey commissioned by the CSP 41 per cent of people say they have experienced back pain/ache in the last two years.

 Back Care Awareness Week 8 – 12 October 2007 In a recent survey commissioned by the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP) 41 per cent of people say they have experienced back pain/ache in the last two years. Despite evidence that exercise is crucial to the relief and prevention of back pain problems (1), only 3 per cent were given advice on exercise by their GP and 32 per cent of people had to wait 2-6 months to see a physiotherapist. Physiotherapists are experts in the management and prevention of back pain. Early intervention by a physio reduces the likelihood of back pain becoming a chronic problem. Back pain is one of the most common reasons for chronic disability and incapacity for work in the western world. In the UK up to 5 million working days are lost each year and up to half a million people receive a long term state incapacity benefit because of back pain. In addition to the impact on individuals and their families, back pain is estimated to cost the UK economy up to £5bn a year (source: DWP). Back problems can have a dramatic effect on everyday life, affecting work, leisure activities and family or social relationships – 66 per cent of people in the survey say their work and/or personal life has been affected in a negative way by back pain or backache. Sarah Bazin, Chair of Council at the CSP comments: “Speedier treatment and professional advice on exercise could not only reduce the very common misery of back pain but also the huge amounts of money paid out each year through incapacity benefit. Keeping backs moving through moderate exercise can help prevent and relieve back problems. We can all help ourselves by taking regular daily exercise to off-set our increasingly sedentary lifestyles.” The CSP is very concerned about many of the survey findings. These include: · When people with back pain sought advice from their GP, 69 per cent of people were prescribed painkillers and only one third (31 per cent) were referred for physiotherapy. Only 3 per cent were given advice on exercise and 10 per cent were advised to rest. It is important to stay active if you have back pain – bed rest can often make the pain worse. Physical exercise is a very effective method for reducing pain and discomfort. · 32 per cent of people with back pain had to wait 2-6 months to see a physiotherapist, with 4 per cent waiting more than 6 months. The CSP recommends that people with back pain seek the advice of a chartered physiotherapist as soon as possible. · 73 per cent of those people who waited more than two months for physiotherapy treatment still have back ache/pain. A long wait for treatment combined with lack of information about the importance of exercise may be contributing to the numbers of people experiencing ongoing back pain. As well as campaigning for shorter waiting times for physiotherapy treatment, the CSP is seeking to raise public awareness about the importance of regular exercise for the prevention and treatment of back pain. · The most common reason given (by 38 per cent of people) for not attending their physiotherapy appointment was that they had sought alternative treatment due to the long waiting list. Appropriate and effective treatment should be readily available on the NHS. The CSP is campaigning for people with back problems to be able to self-refer directly to an NHS physiotherapist in order to cut down waiting times. For Back Care Awareness Week (8 – 12 October 2007), the CSP has produced a free leaflet on simple exercises that busy people can integrate into their every day lives to help increase fitness and avoid the misery of back pain. The leaflet ‘Lazy Exercise and Back Care’ shows how to make exercise a routine part of the day – as automatic and easy as brushing your teeth. The big advantage of these simple tips is that you don’t need to go to the gym or have any special equipment, clothing or shoes to carry them out and they can all be done while carrying out your usual activities. Val, aged 41, who runs her own business with her husband near Halifax, suffered from back pain and sciatica. She says: “When my back pain was at its worst it completely changed my life. I could hardly walk and was taking strong painkillers just to cope. My husband and I were struggling to run our own business and I had to take phone calls in bed. If I hadn’t been able to work from home, I couldn't have held down a job at all. I couldn’t do the housework and something like going shopping was out of the question. My physiotherapist helped me get back to my normal life. She used reflexology and manipulation, and I was able to stop taking the medication, which was really important to me. I now know what to do if I have a problem with my back again.” (1) The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy. Guidelines for the management of persistent low back pain parts 1 & 2. London; The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy; 2006. Ends For media enquiries please call Becky Darke at the CSP Press Office on 020 7306 6616 / 020 7306 6628 (24 hours mobile: 07786 332 197 / 07900 160 349) or Ann Stirling on 01273 202980 (24 hours mobile: 07939 153 513). Notes to editors   1. The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy is the professional, educational and trade union body for the UK's 49,000 chartered physiotherapists, physiotherapy students and assistants. For previous releases visit 2. The survey was carried out among a representative sample of 2030 adults by TNS during August 2007. 3. Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) are the most commonly reported cause of work-related ill health in the UK, affecting an estimated 1,012,000 people in 2005/2006 - twice as many as those suffering from 'stress'. Most complaints related to the back (437,000 or 43 per cent), followed by the upper limbs or neck (374,000) and lower limbs (209,000). The Health and Safety Executive estimated that MSDs were responsible for 9.5 million lost working days in 2005/06, an average of 17.3 days absence for each person suffering from an MSD. The cost of these conditions to society was calculated to be £5.7 billion per year in 1995/1996 (HSE, 1999). When adjusted to 2007 prices, this figure reaches over £7 billion. 4. The free leaflet “Lazy Exercise and Back Care” is available from the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy. Tel 0207 306 6666 or email The CSP recommends that people with persistent lower back pain should be given the opportunity to participate in an exercise programme, in a form appropriate and acceptable to each individual, after physiotherapy assessment. 5. A short version of the leaflet with brief tips from physiotherapists for easy exercise and a better back is attached as a PDF for easy reproduction. Please credit the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy.


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