The current study found a 12-month prevalence of 32% and is in general agreement with prevalence rates reported in the literature, which vary from 15% to 63% [3, 4]. Nyland and Grimmer (2003) assessed undergraduate physiotherapy students using the Nordic back care questionnaire, and their thorough assessment of lower back pain retrospectively, allowed the investigators to display separately 12 month, one month, one week prevalence. Retrospective studies can produce detailed results, but the prospective approach can further assess change over time and enhance investigations. Palmer et al.  prospectively revealed 36% prevalence in the general population, which increased to 49% over ten years. The deterioration of lower back pain into a chronic state condition can be examined using a prospective approach, particularly when investigating healing times and impact on the sufferer. This calls into play the usefulness of 'recurrence rates' as a beneficial measurement of the overall impact of lower back pain.
Students in the current study engaged in physical activity, reported a 77% recurrence rate, in agreement with recent literature, which ranges between 60% to 76% [19, 28, 29]. Recurrence and healing are controversial topics as it has been stated that 90% of lower back pain will resolve itself within one month . However, Croft and colleagues' (1998) prospective work on healing and care seeking showed that although 59% of sufferers did not consult again within six months of injury, only 25% had fully recovered within 12 months. In summary, lower back pain does not spontaneously heal or subside within one month, but persists over a twelve-month period, and the only decline may be in return visits to medical practitioners.
When asked when the low back pain first occurred, some students made a surprising and unsolicited comment. That was, their lower back pain was 'constant' or 'continuous'. This conservatively represented 14% of sufferers and may indicate a chronic state of lower back pain. Chronic lower back pain, seen as a stage in the progressive development from acute to sub-acute and finally chronic, as a result of recurrence  has reported rates of 20–30% across a broad range of populations [7, 30]. Data presented in the current study may under-represent the actual rate. The mechanisms of change and deterioration to chronic state may be as difficult to assess retrospectively as the initial cause of lower back pain . However, physically active students in the current study did display behaviors that may be of concern in relation to the development of chronic lower back pain. These include: 39% never attended a medical practitioner; few reported using a coping strategy ('core body exercises' highest at only 10%), a small but important 6% reported using prescribed medication and 3% stated 'avoidance' as a coping strategy. Together, these observations indicate a tendency towards passive coping. Passive coping is strongly associated with disabling neck and back pain  and thoroughly contrary to findings that active rehabilitation (physical or cognitive) is superior to passive coping . In light of these findings the sufferers in the current population are likely to be following the path of lower back pain sufferers observed by Croft et al.  and Mercado et al. . They may find themselves suffering longer periods of absenteeism and reduced daily functionality. The high prevalence (32%) and high recurrence (77%) suggest that lower back pain in this population is a serious health concern.
Increasing this concern may be the fact that, similar to Nyland and Grimmer , the population sampled are undergraduate students, with an average age approximately a decade younger than those observed in the majority of studies on lower back pain.
The literature typically reports the onset of lower back pain at approximately 30 years of age  and peaking in prevalence within middle age . Lower back pain sufferers in this study, however, were younger at 21.6 years. But lower back pain is not uncommon in younger populations, and has been observed from early teens and onwards . Rates vary throughout adolescence as Prendeville and Dockrell  found a high lifetime prevalence of 42%, in 13 to 17 year olds, while Nyland and Grimmer's  reported ages 20 and 21 years. Further, their risk of lower back pain increased after year one of physiotherapy training. These were final year students, indicating an effect of long-term (3 to 4 year college career) exposure to stress and strain on the lower back. No association to year of study was observed in the current population, but the average age of 21.6 years for lower back pain sufferers, does coincide with Nyland and Grimmer's  final year students (21.4 yrs). The onset of lower back pain at this low age brings forward the expected emergence of lower back pain by approximately 9 years. This increase in time exposed to risk factors may also increase wear and tear on the lower back and therefore the risk of injury.
The current study reports high prevalence and highly significant recurrence rates for lower back pain. As reported by Nyland and Grimmer , entering the workforce with poor lower back health is not uncommon amongst students following a similarly active academic program. Stergioulas et al.  reported 63% prevalence amongst physical education teachers, attributing 'no personal training' and occupational factors such as 'lifting gym instruments' and 'helping students into flexing posture' as significant risk factors. The high prevalence of lower back pain in a young and active population is a worrying trend, especially in light of similarities in age to other lower back pain studies on active populations. The physical activity type associated with lower back pain warrants further investigation and the logical progression for the current study is an examination of physical activity in a number of different forms, to establish links between lower back pain and activity.
Findings in the literature vary regarding the impact of activity and exercise, but studies on elite athletes and sports involving hyper-flexion and extension have reported higher prevalence of lower back pain . Links have also been found between occupational activities (lifting and loading) and lower back pain [11, 13]. Adams et al.  proposed a U-shaped association with lower back pain. A simple association between low activity levels and lower back pain may be an inappropriate claim, as lower back pain may be more an effect than a cause of sedentary lifestyle. Athletes, however, have suffered lower back pain due to long duration of training [9, 13, 16], or extremity of flexion and/or load in the lumbar region . In the current study, 'hours of physical activity in personal training' was the only factor significantly associated with lower back pain, and those reporting lower back pain carried out an average of 14.0 ± 8.2 hrs per week, while non-sufferers completed 11.2 ± 7.5 hrs per week of personal training.
Key significance is the fact that personal training is one of a number of activity types participated in by the students. Initially considerations included investigating if a threshold for lower back pain exists somewhere between 11 and 14 hours of personal training. But lower back pain is a multi-factorial condition , and can be initiated by combined influence of genetics, environment and exposure to risk factors. The conclusion therefore is that we may simply be observing a culmination of factors with perhaps several factors combining to cause lower back pain. Details regarding other physical activity in the current study are as follows: students reported hours of academic program physical activity ranging between 8.0 ± 3.1 to 8.4 ± 6.3 hours per week, in answer to the question "how many different sports do you take part in?" responses ranged from 6.8 ± 4.9 to 8.4 ± 7.3 separate sports as part of their academic curriculum and 4.0 ± 2.7 to 4.4 ± 2.3 separate sports as part of their personal training. This may be contributing to an excessive strain on the lower back. We are reluctant to accept a reduction in personal training hours as a way to alleviate lower back health, because of other health implications of such interpretation, the self reported nature of current data, and the need for further clarification of the physical activity in this population.
As stated, the current study was retrospective, but Verni et al.'s  prospective work with fin swimmers, enabled the authors to identify the peak occurrences for lower back pain through injury tracking. This established the time of year most associated with lower back pain and concluded that poor fitness and technique early in the season, and exhaustion late in the season were contributory factors. This further supports both a prospective approach and a U-shaped association with activity, and indicates a multi-factorial assessment of cause in lower back pain.
A number of recent studies have investigated physiotherapy versus education intervention, and shown that education, even alone, may aid the sufferer as much as physiotherapy. Alston and O'Sullivan , Frost et al.  and Uderman et al.  all showed education intervention was as, and even more effective than physiotherapy alone in improving pain management and pain resolution. When undergraduates in the current study were asked if they 'received enough information regarding lower back pain on their academic program of study', a majority expressed the opinion that not enough lower back pain information was provided. Equally, interest in a back education program was strongly expressed as 'yes' when asked if they would attend a back clinic. The information requested included 'proper lifting techniques' and 'background information on prevention of lower back pain'.
This indicates an interest in lower back pain management and back care, suggesting that the avoidance habits observed at present may not be by choice, but in-fact due to lack of choice or awareness of constructive pathways to recovery. Population based intervention programs [38, 39] have provided empirical evidence that provision of mass media based education, and the use of standardized instruments can improve coping, recovery and quality of life for the lower back pain sufferer in a quantitatively verifiable way. The current study indicates that a young skilled and educated population, is emerging as poor in low back health state, poor in management behavior, and yet eager to become more informed and move toward self-management of the problem if given the opportunity. It is unclear whether that opportunity is at present available to them. We propose that all student populations be taught good back health practices.