Q: How widespread is back pain?
A: Back pain is the second highest cause for seeking medical advice in the UK, falling just behind the common cold. GPs receive some 7 million visits from sufferers each year, with 80% of back problems recurring. What’s more, the NHS spends more than £2 billion every year on back-pain-related costs including GP consultations, hospital fees and physical therapy. And in the private healthcare sector, a further £5.5 million is spent annually trying to treat this condition. Factor in the five million working days lost each year, and the charity BackCare estimates that back pain costs the UK around £5 billion every year.
Q: What’s the main cause of back problems?
A: The leading cause is sedentary living. In the Western and developed world, sedentary life is on the increase, particularly in the workplace. We spend long periods of time sitting at desks and computers, driving vehicles, flying and generally being less active. This has contributed to the dramatic increase in back pain in recent times. The human spine is a complex piece of engineering which is designed to be active. Prolonged sitting places our spinal discs under strain. The discs are like shock absorbers between our vertebrae and have a ‘jelly-like’ substance inside them. A slumped sitting posture, which reverses the natural curve of the lower back, can increase disc pressure by as much as 190%. This gradually weakens the tough spinal ligaments and outer layer of the disc, and subsequently can lead to the development of disc bulging (also known as a ‘slipped disc’).
Q: What about decreasing fitness levels?
A: If you live an inactive life with a sedentary job, it goes without saying that your overall body function will suffer. For example, in a typical day an average person may spend 30 minutes walking to and from public transport to their workplace and home again (and even less if they drive to work). The rest of the day, for the majority of people, will be spent inactive sitting at a desk. This may easily mean seven-to-ten hours of very little movement. Mechanically, you will develop generally less flexible muscles and poor muscle tone, alongside increased joint stiffness. The spinal muscles will not only ......
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