A bad back can be the bane of your life.

Everyday tasks can result in agony and there's no quick-fix solution for your pain.

But if you suffer from back pain,you're certainly not alone.

Back pain affects 28.3 million Brits, according to a recent survey.

Celebrity sufferers include Sean Connery, Emma Thompson, Michael Caine and former S Club star Jo O'Meara.

Three in five adults in the UK admit to suffering from an occasional aching back and slouching in chairs has been named as the number one cause, according to mattress company Relaxsan.

"The tragedy is that this is the UK's leading cause of disability,and even more disturbing is that recent research is showing back pain is increasingly prevalent among children,"says Barrie Savory, back specialist and author of new book, The Good Back Guide.

"Current statistics from the Department of Health indicate that back pain is costing British industry £5 billion a year in lost production through absenteeism and the National Health Service £481 million a year in treating it."

TYPES OF BACK PAIN: In 95 per cent of cases of back pain, the cause is linked to the way the bones, ligaments and muscles of the back work together. Pain is often based in the lumbar region (lower back), and will come and go at different times depending on different levels of activity.

Simple back pain triggers include poor posture, lack of exercise, sleeping on a mattress that doesn't provide enough back support or a trip or fall.

Other causes of back problems are much less common.

Nerve root pain is the cause in less than 5 per cent of people.

The pain is usually caused when a vertebral disc becomes displaced or bulges out from its normal position, putting pressure on the nerve root.

This is called a slipped disc.

CAUSES: Lifting heavy objects may trigger a nasty twinge in your back but surprisingly most backache is actually caused by doing nothing at all.

Savory explains: "The biggest factor behind back pain is the fact we're too sedentary.

Our creature comforts' the bed, the soft armchair, the car, the office desk and the computer are the very instruments of our torture.

Our backs have become weaker and weaker as we've become more sedentary."

Unfortunately once you've experienced back pain, you may well be prone to more problems, he adds.

"Disc problems at the base of the spine are one of the most common back injuries. Recurrent episodic lower back pain is down to an instability between vertebrae and vertebrae, where the disk has lost its fluid content and can effectively wobble' about," he says.

"Once you've got a degree of instability, unless you do an enormous amount of core muscle strength to regain it, you'll always be vulnerable."

UNDERSTANDING YOUR BACK: Pinpointing the site of your back pain could be the key to understanding the cause.

Savory has this advice: Lowerback problems are related to coping with standing upright.

Upper back problems are about how we attempt to cope, or not, with the world around us the problems that arise from too many hours sitting at a desk, in a car or glued to the PC.

Middle back problems are related to posture.

TREATMENT: If you suffer from recurrent back pain it's wise to seek advice from an expert.

Back pain can be treated in many ways, including physiotherapy, osteopathy and chiropractic treatment.

"All of these have an input in helping to restore the back to normal but much of it is down to self-help and prevention,"

PREVENTION: Prevention is better than cure and back pain can be kept at bay with a few simple changes.

  • Walk more and try and make yourself do a spot of daily exercise. You don't need to join a gym; get off one bus stop early, run up a flight of stairs or balance on one leg while you're trying to clean your teeth. Sitting just loses muscle tone.
  • Pilates is recommended for strengthening core muscles.

Yoga can over-stretch and does not give the same degree of muscle control.

Get out of "desk mode".

Every time you get up from sitting, deliberately put your hands behind the back, make your shoulder blades meet at the back so you open the front of the chest and hold for five seconds.

  • Spend time on shoulder shrugging sessions when you're sitting for long periods of time. This gets blood supply moving and relieves tension at the top of the shoulders.
  • Find a mattress that gives support.

Don't go for super-hard mattresses but ones with a soft top surface that's firm enough to hold you. Warm-wrap therapy can reduce pain in the lower back, according to new research. After three days of therapy with a Thermacare Heatwrap, 43 men and women with physically demanding jobs found their back pain was significantly reduced after a few hours of use and the benefits continued for days afterwards.

ThermaCare Self-Heating Back Wraps are available from Boots and other major pharmacies,priced £5.99.