When George Clooney injured his spine during the filming of Syriana in 2005, the actor was affected so severely he openly told the media he had ‘contemplated suicide’.

Around 49 per cent of UK adults suffer with back pain, which costs the UK over £1.6bn in healthcare a year and can severely affect the sufferer’s quality of life.

Guy Barham, back specialist at Nuffield Health Bournemouth Hospital, says: “There has been a real stigma attached to spinal surgery in the past – it’s a very emotive subject, the spine is an area that seems to make people feel particularly vulnerable.

“In many ways, the spine is a vulnerable part of the body. Where humans may have evolved to walk on two legs, we still have a way to go before the spine can robustly cope with the pressure of gravity on our back bones. This means if the spine is not looked after properly, it will be more prone to injury than more developed parts of our bodies.”

Mr Barham advises that modern surgery, technology and anaesthetics have rapidly progressed in recent years making spinal operations safer and more reliable than ever before. But who is likely to need spinal treatment?

As Mr Barham explains: “Almost everyone in the UK will experience back or leg pain related to the spine within their lifetime, be it from the muscles, bones or nerves.”

He sees up to four new patients a week and treats up to 200 patients a year for common conditions such as a slipped disc.

He says: “Some people have approached me in pain so severe they can neither sit nor stand but have had to lay on the floor. It’s my job to play detective and find out where their pain stems from. The symptom most commonly presented is pain in the lower back, buttocks and lower leg into the foot and pins and needles and weakness. This is known as sciatica and can indicate slipped disc in the back.”

In more serious cases of slipped disc, patients with shooting pain down both legs, pins and needles in the saddle area and the inability to control the bladder need to seek medical treatment immediately.

Surprisingly, slipped discs tend to affect young people, for the simple reason that younger people have more disc fluid to slip out of place.

He says: “While many people can recover naturally from a slipped disc with rest, there are plenty of ways in the meantime to help alleviate pain, including painkillers, physiotherapy, acupuncture and chiropractic and osteopathic treatments.

“We try to guide patients down the holistic route, providing advice on how they can adapt their lifestyle to reduce symptoms. However, if pain hasn’t subsided within three months we can offer surgery.”

He concludes: “When people come to Nuffield Health Bournemouth Hospital with back pain, they will experience a consultant-led process from start to finish.

“This means the surgeon who sees them for a consultation appointment will be the one performing their surgery. This offers huge benefits to the patient and the surgeon, as the surgeon will know all about their symptoms and can also provide reassurance if they are apprehensive about having surgery.”