Watching TV for extended periods can cause lower back pain even in active women, an Australian study has found.
The research, undertaken by Melbourne's Monash University, found that watching TV was a factor in lower back pain for women, but not men.
Using data from the Australian Diabetes, Obesity and Lifestyle Study, along with a questionnaire to uncover lifestyle factors, the study also found little evidence connecting physical activity levels to back pain intensity.
Poor posture on the sofa
The reason behind the pain seems to be that many people don’t pay attention to their posture when watching TV.
During the course of the study, women who watched TV for two or more hours a day experienced the worst lower back pain.
Nearly 80% of the 5,000 participants suffered from lower back pain, with 12% experiencing a high level of disabling pain.
Sultana Monira Hussain, a musculoskeletal expert who led the study, says one in 10 Australians have lower back pain at any given moment. Three-quarters of all Australians reported at least one episode of lower back pain in their life.
In the UK, it is estimated to affect at least 60% to 80% of the population at some time in their lives, and costs the NHS £500 million a year.
Physical activity and back pain
Hussain claims it is TV viewing, not physical activity levels, which increases the risk of disabling lower back pain in women – but not in men. The researchers were unable to discover the reasons behind this gender anomaly.
Previous studies into whether exercise can impact lower back pain have been divided, with some suggesting physical activity can relieve the pain while others suggest it makes it worse.
Effects of watching TV
There have been a number of reports recently on the long-term physical effects of watching too much TV.
Osaka University in Japan found watching TV for two-and-a-half to five hours a day increases the risk for a fatal blood clot by 70%, while watching more than five hours increases the risk by 250%.
Experts at Copenhagen University, meanwhile, found men who watch large amounts of TV had average sperm counts of 37 million per millilitre of fluid, compared to 52 million per millilitre among men who hardly ever watch it.
Finally, Curtin University in Australia, found children who watch a lot of TV could build less bone during critical years, and therefore be more vulnerable to osteoporosis and bone breaks later in life as a result.