Back Care Awareness Week runs from 3 to 7 October 2022 and is organised by BackCare, the charity for healthier backs. The aim of the campaign is to raise awareness of the problems back pain can cause, as well as to encourage prevention and effective treatment.
The theme of this year’s campaign is ‘We’ve got your back covered’ and a range of resource material and information is available for individuals and employers. Back pain is now the world’s leading cause of human disability, affecting half of the adult population in a given month and almost 80% of people at some point in their lives, BackCare reports.
Causes of back pain include sore muscles and tendons, slipped discs, fractures and other problems affecting the back. It can develop over a long period of time, or can result from an accident or heavy lifting. Poor posture, overexertion, sitting incorrectly and lifting things incorrectly are also among the main contributory factors.
With more than 12 million workdays lost each year in the UK due to musculoskeletal related issues, back pain is one of the leading causes of workplace absences in the UK. It costs economies worldwide billions of pounds annually.
Part of this year’s campaign looks at how employers can support their employees by giving them the tools and knowledge needed to be proactive with their back health. While back pain is not usually a sign of a more serious condition, it can still be distressing and a real inconvenience to a person’s working and personal life.
In conjunction with the latest awareness campaign, the clinical negligence team at Penningtons Manches Cooper wishes to shine a light on a rare but very serious back condition called Cauda Equina Syndrome.
The Cauda Equina are the nerves located at the base of the spinal cord involved in lower limb sensation and pelvic function. Cauda Equina Syndrome is a neurological condition which usually arises from a slipped disc in the spine that compresses these sensitive nerves. If the compression is not identified quickly and resolved (through surgery to remove the pressure), permanent damage can be caused leading to altered lower body sensation, problems with mobility, and bladder, bowel and sexual dysfunction. The impact of these disabilities is often life-changing.
Cauda Equina Syndrome can develop very quickly and there is a short window of opportunity to treat it effectively. Therefore prompt medical action is vital. However, since it is relatively rare and often preceded by ‘routine’ back pain, it can be missed – with far-reaching consequences.
Symptoms which should prompt urgent action include loss of sensation in the lower limbs, numbness in the buttocks, loss of genital sensation and bladder and bowel problems. These are often referred to as ‘red flag’ symptoms which should alert medical practitioners that this could be a serious neurological problem caused by spinal cord compression, rather than just progressive back pain.
Lucie Prothero, a solicitor in Penningtons Manches Cooper’s clinical negligence team, who specialises in Cauda Equina Syndrome cases, commented: “Back pain is a very common problem shared by many of us in the UK. It is often progressive, with patients seeing medical practitioners persistently with pain and associated sciatica over a period of time.
“Sadly, we see a significant number of cases where the additional warning signs of possible Cauda Equina Syndrome are missed in patients who have a history of back pain. This can lead to delayed diagnosis and surgery to stop the spinal cord compression and prevent life-changing outcomes, such as permanent loss of bladder, bowel and sexual function. For this reason, it is essential that if individuals start to develop symptoms such as loss of sensation in the lower limbs, numbness in the buttocks, loss of genital sensation and bladder and bowel problems, they seek urgent medical advice and that their concerns are taken seriously.”
For more information on Cauda Equina Syndrome or the process involved in pursuing a legal claim for the mismanagement of this condition, click here.