Whether it's a tweak as you turn your head to talk to a colleague or a more serious injury such as a slipped disc, most people have experienced some sort of back pain.

Roughly two out of every five adults will experience such discomfort during the next 12 months and 80 per cent of people will feel a twinge in their back at some point during their lives.

The economic cost of back problems has been estimated at £6 billion per year in benefits, treatments and lost production and experts say that it is the largest single cause of days lost from work.

Yet consistently reliable remedies for back pain are few and far between.

Healthcare professionals say treatments should always be tailored to the particular needs of the individual and their message is very much "prevention is better than cure".

This is also the line which is being taken by the charity BackCare during BackCare Week, which takes place this Monday to Friday.

The week aims to raise awareness of the problem, particularly in the workplace and in schools, where children carrying bags of heavy books can get into bad habits from an early age.

BackCare's chief executive Colin Jones says the causes of back pain can vary.

"In some cases, it can be genetic or as the result of an accident. An awful lot of the time, it is also as a result of a poor lifestyle, being overweight or unfit and ignoring good advice about lifting."

The pain which results from having a bad back can be excruciating.

"People who have experienced it really can't explain how bad it is. In some cases, when it lasts for a long time, they've become suicidal.

There is a very strong link with depression when you have back problems."

Jones offers some hints to people suffering from back problems about how best to limit their agony once the pain starts, while the BackCare web site also provides a detailed list of stretches designed to help sufferers.

"The more somebody can move, the better chance they have of recovery. The worst thing you can do is go to bed.

There are a variety of exercises you can do, even down to walking."

He adds: "In some ways, what we are encouraging people to do is to go through the pain barrier. If people have the mental attitude to get through it, that's very important. It's trying to get back to an active lifestyle and it is painful but it gets better."

Jones recommends sufferers get an early diagnosis in order to speed them on the road to recovery.

He then suggests they join an exercise group to build up their muscles and improve their fitness levels as soon as possible - activities such as hydrotherapy and gym sessions can help.

Although it is now received wisdom within the medical world that exercise is an important part of rehabilitation from back problems, healthcare professionals say, when it comes to prescribing specific treatments, it is very much a case of working it out for yourself.

Jones says: "You can't give a hard and fast rule.

What works for some people doesn't work for others. The advice we give is to try those treatments you think are going to be suitable for you."

The options range from osteopathy, physiotherapy and chiropractic treatment to acupuncture and the Alexander technique.

For more information, visit www.backcare.org.uk