Back Pain Relief Saves Your Business Money

Back pain relief for staff makes good business sense-- provided the pain relief is effective in the medium and long term. This page analyses how much money businesses are effectively throwing away when they needlessly pay staff to stay away from work due to back pain.

The intangibles are potentially immense with back pain, because backs are so vital to our well-being, and affect our functioning so deeply. More on that later.

But let's look first at the tangible costs of back pain. When your staff take time off sick, the reason is usually back pain. That is a fact that varies little across the western world: back pain is the most common reason for people to approach a medical professional.

In the population at large, men take off an average of 2 days off per year from back pain, and women take an average of 2.6 days.

But 10% of the population take a median of 36 days off per year for back pain, and those suffering back pain are disproportionately (77%) in the most economically productive (and highly paid) age-group, those between 30 and 60 years of age.

Here's a first estimate of the cost to an organisation of lower back pain.

Number of employeesAnn cost of lower back painAnn cost of high-disability back pain
10$3,012$4,990
50$15,061$24,948
200$60,244$99,792
3000$903,653$1,496,880

These figures are based on an Australian study (BF Walker et al., Low Back Pain in Australian Adults: The Economic Burden, Asia Pac J Public Health 2003; 15; 79) that corresponds closely to studies in the US and the UK. The figures assume that you are an "average" Australian organisation with a national average distribution of male and female workers (49% male, 51% female.) To get a more accurate picture of your own organisation, more detail is almost certainly needed.

The more specific sums for a business are reasonably simple. How many days off sick do your valuable staff members take off each year? Then, take an effective long-term back pain intervention, compute its cost per session, and the time-cost (time off work) of sessions with the therapist. Use results from a well-designed scientific survey to set expectations for the back pain treatment, and determine savings.

Here's a table based on the Alexander Technique, a well-known educational and behavioural approach to back pain which has excellent long-term research results:

(Employee worth is the contribution the employee makes to the business. It can be calculated as Gross Profit divided by No of employees.)

Employee worthDays off work per yearSaving over 1 year
$50,0006$84.94
$90,0006$472.90
$200,0006$763.87

These figures are based on conservative estimates:

  • The company pays the full price of the Alexander Technique lessons
  • The lessons take place in the workplace (no rental costs), during work time
  • There are 6 lessons per employee
  • time off work for lessons is factored into the cost.
  • The ATEAM trial at Southampton University, published in the British Medical Journal shows days of back pain per month is reduced by 48% after 6 lessons, and that the 48% reduction in days of back pain persists for at least a year (the study measured no further than one year)

I have designed a spreadsheet model that you're welcome to use to analyse your own situation. It performs the calculations above, amongst others, and you can check my working (feedback gratefully received!) Please get in touch and I'll send it to you.