22 Jul CHRONIC PAIN AT WORKPLACE
Chronic pain is a silent disease that affects over 20 percent of all world’s population. However, only in 2001 European Federation of Pain Societies identified it as a specific health problem – an independent disease. Whereas acute pain is considered a symptom of illness or injury, chronic pain specifics are entirely different. It does not perform a protective function, but slowly weakens the human’s body, leaving the person unfit for work.
HOW DOES CHRONIC PAIN AFFECT HUMAN BODY?
Chronic pain can occur in a wide variety of areas of the body, but working-age patients often complain about pain in the lumbar, lower back, shoulders, neck, and arms. This pain may not be associated with trauma or injury but may develop slowly due to various degenerative spinal phenomena, irregular sitting, posture, neurological, or peripheral nerve disorders.
For example, acute pain is caused by external or internal lesions, its location is usually clear, and the primary role of such pain is to warn the body (protective function). Suppose a person injured his arm: the cause of the pain is clear, it is easy to determine the injury’s location and origin. With the right treatment and medication, the pain goes away and does not recur. Meanwhile, chronic pain does not perform a protective function, and it is usually challenging to determine its actual cause. What’s more, it can last for more than 12 hours a day. Although the intensity of chronic pain can vary for various reasons, the patient feels it almost consistently.
How does chronic pain affect a person’s ability to work?
According to the Republic of Lithuania laws, every employer must take care of the safety and health of employees. Most companies take care responsibly of this matter. Safe workplaces are created; it is ensured that the employee has all the necessary tools for safe work; everything is done to avoid workplace risks. However, it is very often forgotten that in the workplace, a person can suffer acute trauma and become a victim of a chronic illness. Sedentary work has become increasingly common in recent decades. More and more studies show that it impacts the development of various chronic ailments, such as the chronic spine, neck, shoulder pain, chronic headaches.
In 2019 an article in the journal Front Public Health was published describing a study demonstrating the link between sedentary work, back pain, and psychological and social behavior. The results show that sedentary workers are more likely to experience negative consequences, such as back pain and mental health problems. Therefore, to ensure the employee’s well-being, it is appropriate to create conditions that reduce sitting time, integrate and promote physical activity through various health programs. Such factors should include preventive measures to prevent back pain, injuries, and mental health complications.
Every day a person suffering from chronic pain loses physical functionality, activity and becomes apathetic, passive, depression may develop, and other side effects such as anger, stress, fear, insomnia, and apathy may also occur. All this has a particularly negative impact on a person’s ability to perform the tasks assigned to him or even engage in daily activities.
Chronic pain is difficult to name. Therefore, often the patient himself, his relatives, and employers do not pay enough attention to it. The still-thinking “Oh, it will pass” or “take a pill” forces us to take this ailment as a secondary problem. Forgetting the negative psychological, physiological, and at the same time, economic consequences. A person who often suffers from chronic pain hides it from people around him, especially if it’s hard to name what, when, and why it hurts. It is also common to think about preserving the workplace, not becoming a burden to the employer by continually complaining and moaning about the painful feelings. However, a person with chronic pain becomes incapacitated for work or his or her ability to work drops significantly, which can be seen in assessing work performance.
THE ROLE OF THE EMPLOYER IN PROTECTING EMPLOYEES’ HEALTH
An employer who values each employee as an important member of the team must pay special attention to their health and well-being.
What an employer can do to help their employees:
- Develop a responsible approach to mandatory health screening;
- Encourage the choice of preventive health insurance programs;
- Ensure employees with additional health insurance;
- Create a positive emotional environment;
- Create conditions for physiotherapy, massage sessions at the workplace or during work;
- Educate employees on health issues;
- Create a safe environment where the employee can talk about their health;
- Properly prepare staff so that they can refer the employee to the right specialist.By paying attention to the possibilities of improving employees’ health, the employer not only demonstrates its responsible attitude but also creates an attractive system of employee motivation, helps a person during a difficult period, and ensures the maintenance of strong relationships with each other.