The evils of sitting have been well documented in recent years. It's been associated with everything from increased cancer risk to shorter life expectancy, and it's costing Americans an arm and a leg - and a back. At least $50 billion is spent each year to treat lower back pain, the fall issue of NYU Physician says.

"Lumbar spine issues are starting to explode as people sit in a chair all day," physician Wayne Stokes told the magazine. "We try to get across the idea that if the body doesn't move, it's not going to work."

According to the magazine, chronic back pain isn't caused so much by acute injury as by muscles that have become weak or imbalanced from disuse.

For example, an MRI scan might show a herniated disk, but the source of the pain may be in the joints around the spine or pelvis. This makes back pain difficult to diagnose and treat. "It's possible to do the wrong exercises and make things worse," says Stokes.

He and other doctors are pursuing more holistic treatment regimens that combine medical interventions with lifestyle changes: strengthening exercises for the core and lower back, massage, acupuncture, anti-inflammatory meds and injections. And above all, we need to get up, stand up.

"Setting an alarm to go off every 20 to

30 minutes is a good reminder to stand up," says Stokes. "Even 15 seconds of standing helps break the seated cycle."

Maggie Fazeli Fard, The Washington Post