Backache a real pain for nearly 80% of adults

ON ANY day in Australia, one quarter of the population suffers back pain, according to the University of Sydney.

At the same time, nearly 80% of adult Australians will experience back pain sometime during their lives.

In fact back pain is the leading cause of lost work days with 25% of sufferers in the 18-44 age group taking 10 or more days off per year.

This costs Australia about $4.8 billion each year for health care.

If you suffer from chronic or acute back pain, you may be tempted to visit your GP for painkillers and for x-rays and these may indeed be necessary.

However, conquering back pain may require a more comprehensive approach, including physiotherapy, osteopathy, daily exercises, adjustments to your work station, a different sleeping and standing posture and more.

Taking classes in Alexander Technique may also help you learn to use your body differently, while Pilates classes can help strengthen your core muscles to support your back.

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Professor Chris Maher, director of the Musculoskeletal Division at University-affiliate The George Institute for Global Health, said individuals and government wasted a great deal of money on unnecessary tests and treatments including invasive surgery.

"Back pain is a very common reason for visiting a GP, and 25% of people are referred for imaging from GPs when we know imaging offers very little in benefits," he said.

"Undoubtedly we waste lots of money on unnecessary treatments and tests for back pain; but judging exactly how much is 'wasted' is difficult. No one yet has joined all the dots and put a total figure on waste but it would be a staggering amount of money.

"A concern is that, without improvements in the understanding and treatment of back pain, the costs will continue to rise."

If you work in an office it is especially important that your work station is ergonomically designed and set up.

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