Dewi Richards knows first hand the pain and difficulty involved in recovering from a broken back.

The keen sportsman was involved in a motorbike accident several years ago and was told by doctors he would never be able to exercise properly again.

Mr Richards, an engineer by trade, refused to accept this prognosis and used a mechanical approach to look at ways to rehabilitate his spine.

He came up with a series of exercises dedicated to preventing and treating back pain.

Mr Richards' newly-named Back Fit system combines techniques of relaxation and exercise to strengthen the deep postural muscles that support the spine and improve posture.

Having used the exercises himself as part of his recovery programme, Mr Richards, who has qualifications in personal training, weight training, gym instruction and fitness testing, is now showing other people how the system works.

He said: "People come to me through a third party, usually their GP. Most have been through physiotherapy sessions but are still in pain and need more help.

"I can help them strengthen their spine and muscles through exercises which are also a useful preventative measure against pain.

"Many people are nervous about doing normal types of exercise because they are frightened their back may get further damaged but this system can help them.

"It is essential a person gets a clinical diagnosis before taking part in the exercises, which is why I work only with referrals."

Mr Richards usually sees people on a one-to-one basis but, following demand from patients, has recently started group sessions. He and fellow instructor and massage therapist Alison Fox are currently based at the Saltdean Lido complex.

Within the Back Fit system, clients are taught to perform everyday activities safely and learn how to maintain the correct mechanics and alignment of the body.

Back injury is the main cause of long-term sick leave from work, with 60 per cent of adults suffering back problems annually.

The cost to employers and the NHS runs into billions of pounds.

The cause of most people's back pain is not usually serious but, because the spine is so central to the body's movements, quite small amounts of damage can cause a lot of pain and discomfort.

Some of the most common causes of stress and strain on the spine are slouching in chairs, driving in hunched positions, standing badly and lifting incorrectly.

Inactivity and the wrong sort of movement are usually at the root of simple back pain. Inactivity makes the muscles go slack and unable to support the back properly which means it is more vulnerable to damage when certain movements pull too much on one area.

Usually the problem is a strain or tear to the muscles, tendons or ligaments around the lower spine. In turn, this can produce painful muscle tension and spasms.

Medical research shows that specific exercise programmes can reduce pain and disability and help improve sufferers' confidence.

More than three quarters of patients who follow a specific exercise programme to isolate and rehabilitate the lumbar spine have excellent to good results.

The aim of the exercises developed by Mr Richards is to strengthen the deep postural muscles which support the spine and skeleton against gravity.

Developing these core stabilisers gives a firm foundation, allowing the rest of the body to work properly.

Steps included in the course include learning how to find and maintain a neutral position for everyday activities and learning how to breathe from the diaphragm which helps with the control of muscles and relaxation.

People are also encouraged to learn how to concentrate and be aware of the body and its position.

Strength and stamina are built up by the gradual introduction of cycling, stepping and walking exercises.

For more details about Back Fit, call Mr Richards on 01273 307835 or 07941 321281.