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How to Relieve Back Pain at Work and Win

How to Relieve Back Pain at Work and Win

How to relieve back pain at work is a question that more and more people are asking themselves. Perhaps you are one of them. This post will help you find the answer.

Tips on Back Pain at Work
Back Pain at Work

However, before I go on I want to ask you another question. Are you familiar with BDRQ? If not, let me start by defining it for you: It refers to The Back Disability Risk Questionnaire for Work-Related, Acute Back Pain.

 The BDRQ is “a brief (16-item) patient questionnaire that provides a self-assessment of factors related to prognosis for work-related back pain. Factors include background demographics, physical health risks, workplace factors, pain, mood, and expectations for recovery.” [1]

What This Means to You in Learning How to Relieve Back Pain at Work

The reason I wanted to define it and  why you need to know about this is, as I said,  work related back pain is a growing concern that might  effect you or someone you care about. You need to be aware of tools, such as the BDRQ, that can  help you understand factors that are associated  with return to work among people with back pain.

Here’s what I mean:

Imagine that you have a great job, and then out of no where you have the bad fortune of suffering from back pain.

Freaking mind game, that’s like being stuck in a hotel with all the people that you can’t stand  in your life and there’s no way out. So, it’s bad enough that this condition is messing with your head and it’s literally  a pain—if not in the butt, close enough. Now you have to mange it so it doesn’t risk your job. How are you going to do that?

Here is Where The BDRQ Comes in

It will help you assess if you’re on the brink of chronic pain and disability. This is a big deal because it means you can stop things from becoming worse by a change in behavior. It can mean the difference between  having an annoying back problem which you can manage and keep working or something that can put you out of commission and a job.

Tips on Back Pain at Work
When Back Pain at Work Becomes Disastrous

This is How it Works to Relieve Back Pain at Work

It is designed to be administered within the first 14 days after pain onset, and takes into consideration all work place factors with a 3 month follow up. This way concerns about stress, re-injury, RTW( return to work) that might increase the risk of persistent  back pain can be addressed. For more information on RTW check out:

Consider these examples:

Not reporting injury.  Hesitance to report a work-related pain problem out of concerns of unfair treatment or diminished opportunities for advancement.

 In other words, someone may not  tell the boss that they  are having problems with their back for fear of being overlooked for promotion. On a cold practical  level this is foolish because most workers’ compensation claims have a deadline by which paper work has to be submitted. On  a more human level there’s some thing very important to consider.


 Most of the time the boss would’ve offered to temporarily reduce the physical demands  of the job and made RTW a lot easier. A BDRQ  would have caught the problem and there’s growing evidence that in most cases the employer would have taken steps to ensure a stressless transition injury to work. Feeling that you are useful is a big step in ensuring a faster recovery.

Relationships with coworkers. One of the things that a BDRQ will pick up is your relationships with supervisors and coworkers who might provide assistance and advice. [2]

Tips on relationships at work
Hands of friendship

 If you have have established  relationships with those that worked with or supervised your pre-injury, they might provide opportunities  for you to have alternative work until your back heals. This is much better than going at it alone and working in pain.  For more details look at the video  above.

Expectations  of Recovery. People  who fear returning to physical work will lead to more serious injury, may develop a similar problem as seniors  who, having fallen, develop a fear of falling and are in greater risk of falling.

 So too may a worker with the fear of injury  increase his or her absence  from work. This may in turn  delay recovery. A BDRQ would detect this emotional  obstacle  to returning  to work and perhaps one would realize that they need help to device a coping strategy that would aid their  recovery.


Tips on getting back to work
Recovering to Get Back to Work

The bottom line is that one needs to be emotionally  invested in  his or her  own recovery and believe that they can in fact get better.

No Experience for Alternative work. It’s great if one is given the opportunity  to do alternative work that is less stressful on their back, giving it time to heal.

 What if one just doesn’t have the experience  to do alternative work? One can ask for the opportunity to train in a new department. 

Most organizations will allow that for a worker in good standing. A BDRQ would have allowed a person to know such a fact as it relates to his or her company.


Going back to work after a back injury is a scary  and confusing thing. Without an intervention  strategy from the time of the initial injury to the  follow up period, usually 3 months, one may not on their own be able to identify  the emotional  factors that will make a transition to  recovery easier or harder.

 A tool such as a BDRQ is  a powerful  and effective way for someone to give themselves the best chance of success because it catches what was missed in the initial  medical diagnosis. It’s not the only tool out there, but it is the one that is focused on showing people  how they can learn to relieve back pain at work.

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I like to hear from the readers so please leave me a comment below to let me know if this post helped you or if you have any questions.



Shaw WS, Pransky G, Patterson W, Winters T. Early disability risk factors for low back pain assessed at outpatient occupational health clinics. Spine. 2005;30: 572–580.

2 The Back Disability Risk Questionnaire for Work-Related, Acute Back Pain: Prediction of Unresolved Problems at 3-Month Follow-Up

William S. Shaw, PhD

Glenn Pransky, MD, MOccH Thomas Winters, MD, MPH

8 thoughts on “How to Relieve Back Pain at Work and Win

  1. Hi Thabo, a week or so before my job interview I had the most horrible pain in my back, I was trying to clean up the kids toys off the floor and turned in a weird way and I couldn’t move for days. I was sure I’d have to give up the opportunity. Lucky for me the pain stopped and I was fine. Now five years later and I absolutely love my job, I’ve been given promotions and work with a great team.

    I would not have even considered back pain as a work injury, but after reading your article I can see that if I did get back pain from sitting at my desk, in my case, that it would be a work injury. I am very blessed that our work does encourage us to report issues/injuries and followup and get the help we need. But, I can see if that were not the case, that someone would be worried to report it.

    Informative post! Thanks for sharing!

    1. Hi Tara,
      I’m so glad that back pain is no longer an issue for you, and thanks so much for sharing your story. Yes, back pain is a common problem but few people don’t realize that it can be classified as a work injury. I’m glad that you found that this post has brought awareness of back pain as a Return to Work (RTW) issue. Thanks for checking in.

  2. Thanks for this post this is a really great website and always is loaded with wonderful information. I feel employers should definitely take advantage of what the BDRQ has to offer. Using the BDRQ sounds like it could assist in keeping back issues down and maybe much less work missed or none at all if the person is assessed before the back injury becomes much worse. I have heard comments at work that people are afraid to loose their jobs if they report health issues and if they had something like the BDQR in place maybe it would curb the workers fears. I am thinking about suggesting this to my employer to see if it would be advantages to the company. Do you have any suggestions that may make it easier to present this to my employer?

    1. Hi Dena,
      Thanks for the kind words. I’m glad that you found the post useful. I wrote about the BDQR because I think it’s the foundation of the Return to Work programs that we now have, and I always like to go to the source. For practical purposes, however, you’ll want to look at the existing RTW programs and see if there’s any interest at your company. RTW programs save companies money because they include the advice of medical professionals who work with the company to enable injured workers to find alternative work at the same company. So, business still goes on. The modern RTW programs have incorporated much of what the BDRQ was meant to do. As I said, I like to use the original source so people know where the original thinking derived from. I guess it’s my training as a researcher.

      In any case, I have provided a link to what steps are included in most RTW programs.

      This is a link to the RTW program of Chesapeake Insurance company. It’s a good start to give you an idea of what’s involved.


  3. This BDRQ sounds like an excellent tool for employers to help employees return to work. You have done an excellent job in explaining it. You show a picture of EMT’s but Nurses also have a great risk of back injury when transferring patients also. However, I have not heard of this tool before now. I think just about all employers could benefit from using this tool. Do you know if most hospitals have the BDRQ or something like it?

    1. Hi Cynthia,
      Your right of course that nurses risking back injury when transferring patients. It happened to my mom. Thanks for catching the oversight. I’m going back to address that in the post. Most people haven’t heard of the BDRQ because for most part it has been incorporated in the modern Return to Work (RTW) programs. The modern RTWs have the BDRQ as their foundation, and I just wanted to go back to the original source. A good link to find out how the modern RTW has borrowed and implemented BDRQ is

      This is, as I told Dena, the RTW program of the Chesapeake Insurance Company. However, the information pretty much reflects how most RTW programs work. I think some hospitals do have an RTW program but one would have to check the particular state program for specifics.

      Thanks for checking in.


  4. Great information Thabo this is a good post not only for the 9 to 5 jobs but for all people even the retired ones. It is so easy to hurt the back just by twisting or turning wrong could cause the back to get out of shape and able to work. The BDRQ would be a great assessment to help when these problems come along.

    1. Hi Fred,
      The BDQR has been incorporated into the modern Return to Work (RTW) programs. I post about it because I think it’s important for people to understand the original thinking and the foundation that is behind the strategy of transitioning a person from injury to work. I’m glad you found the post useful. Thanks for sharing.

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