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Last Updated: Thursday, 23 June, 2005, 10:05 GMT 11:05 UK
Women 'putting up with back pain'
woman holding her back
Forty per cent of women said back pain affected their work
Women are much more likely to grit their teeth and put up with back pain, a survey has found.

The Health and Safety Executive found women were more likely to suffer from aching backs than men.

But they were less likely to tell their bosses they were in pain, or to take time off.

The HSE says back pain is the most common health problem for British workers, causing people to miss 4.9 million working days each year.

People who cope best are those who stay active and get on with their life despite the pain
Nia Taylor, BackCare

The organisation surveyed 500 workers and 500 employers.

Forty-nine per cent of female workers said they suffered from recurrent back pain, compared to 40% of men.

But women who suffer from back aches take an average of 10.4 days off per year, compared to their male colleagues who take 33 days sick leave a year for back pain.

And only 52% of women are likely to talk to their employers about their condition, compared to 60% of men.

Everyday life affected

But even though women are more likely to stay silent about their pain, the HSE said it is causing them a great deal of suffering.

Four out of ten said it had affected their ability to work and 31% find it affects their ability to earn money.

In addition, 58% have found they are not able to exercise as much as they would like to, and a third said back pain had had an impact on their family and social lives. and even their enjoyment of holidays.

The HSE is currently running a 'Better Backs' campaign to encourage people to look after their backs.

Elizabeth Gyngell, Head of Better Working Environment at the HSE said: "The impact of back injury for women is enormous.

"Back injuries can cause recurring health problems, which can affect every aspect of everyday life.

"In 2004, 205,000 women took time off work to recover from back injuries, and no doubt many more suffered in silence.

"Women need to be pro-active about taking precautions against back injuries both in their social and professional lives."

Nia Taylor, Chief Executive of the charity BackCare, said: "Whatever the reason for the gender difference in taking time off work, the women are right to try to stay at work - the evidence is that the people who cope best are those who stay active and get on with their life despite the pain.

"Most back pain is not due to serious disease or damage to the spine, but due to the muscles, ligaments and joints of the back being "out of condition" and so the answer to backache is to get your back moving and working properly again.

"Taking pain killers every 4-6 hours, hot or cold packs or manipulation by a qualified professional - an osteopath, chiropractor or physiotherapist - can all help to control the pain to allow you to get on with everyday life."

Dr Anita Holdcroft, a reader in anaesthesia at Imperial College said: "Females experience back pain from menstruation at an early age and at this time probably learn from others methods to manage it."

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