An estimated 70–90% of Australians will suffer from lower back pain in some form at some stage in their lives. Within the workplace back pain has been associated with absenteeism and “presenteeism” (being at work, but unproductive), and can pose significant costs to individuals and organisations. It’s no surprise it’s one of the most common injuries seen in manual handling occupations. This story describes the journey of one employee that moved on from back pain with the help of onsite physiotherapy.

Susan* presented to the onsite physiotherapist with low back pain which began after a busy shift where she was exposed to forceful and awkward pushing as part of her job tasks**. Susan was struggling during the day and was overwhelmed as she had not experienced back pain before. She reported feeling tired as she had not slept well since the injury. Her Supervisor referred her to the onsite physiotherapy service and a detailed assessment was conducted with a diagnosis of acute mechanical low back pain.

A treatment plan was put in place for Susan which consisted mainly of home and work based exercises in addition to some manual treatment. In the early stages she was provided with lots of advice and education about how to manage pain, modify activities and adjust sleeping postures. A worksite assessment with the onsite physiotherapist was valuable in identifying demands of her job and providing solutions to modify the way Susan had been performing the pushing task. Importantly, these suggestions were fed back to Susan’s Supervisor and strategies to mitigate future risk within the workplace were discussed.

Remaining engaged with the workplace during recovery from injury is extremely important. In this case, presence of physiotherapy onsite enabled early dialogue between Susan and her Supervisor to devise a suitable duties plan so Susan could remain at work during her recovery. She continued to work at pre-injury hours without lost time and performed modified duties for a short period which were comfortable and provided value to the team. These duties were then gradually increased to the point where Susan returned to full duties. She continues with a regular home exercise program to maintain her fitness for work.

Moving forwards from back pain not only impacts the injured worker but also those around them including family, friends, colleagues and supervisors/ managers. In Susan’s case the role of onsite physiotherapy was crucial to providing accurate assessment of her injury, establishing a suitable management plan, facilitating recovery at work and identifying preventative strategies for the workplace.

If you would like more information about Onsite Physiotherapy services please contact AXIS today to discuss your needs.

*Name changed for privacy reasons

**Detailed description of the workplace and task has not been included for privacy reasons