Hundreds of thousands of filmmakers, movie buffs and critics are flocking to the silver screen to take in the films on offer this year at the Toronto International Film Festival.

With nearly 400 movies on the roster, one would have to sit for three weeks straight to see them all.

But for many of the 80 per cent of Canadians who suffer from back pain, the thought of sitting through just one feature film is enough to make them cringe.

Suffer not the screenings

Whether you're a die-hard cinephile determined to achieve maximum movie time, or you're just catching a flick after work, there are some easy things you can do to avoid an aching back.

Dr. Sid Lisser

Dr. Sid Lisser is an acupuncturist, chiropractor and avid movie buff who has treated many neck and low-back patients in his decade of practice. (Centre for Fitness, Health and Performance)

Dr. Sid Lisser is a chiropractor, acupuncturist and action movie buff living in Toronto.

Despite his own experience with back pain, Lisser satiates his appetite for movies by watching at least a couple every week.

"Sitting in any position for a long period is bad for you," he warns. "If I know I’m going to see a long movie then I’ll actually bring a sweater. I roll it up and put it behind my back, or I'll sit on it so I can raise my butt."

He also follows the following ergonomic rules for successful screenings:

TIFF and your tush

Some ergonomic suggestions for successful screenings. (CBC News)

"Your knees should be equal to or slightly lower than your hips, the backs of your knees should always be two inches away from the seat pan. You should be as upright as possible," he said.

"I don't use the recline feature on the seats … and generally speaking, if you're there for long periods of time, use a lumbar support."

Tips for avoiding the dreaded numb bum

  • Bring a sweater or cushion to sit on or use as lumbar support.
  • Drink water and avoid caffeine to keep spinal discs lubricated.
  • Sit in the back row next to the aisles and take standing breaks.
  • Bring instant hot/cold packs: ice reduces inflammation, heat loosens muscles.
  • Treat yourself to a preventative massage to loosen key muscles.

It's not just how you're sitting that's the issue, but also for how long. Lisser says movement is key.

"If I were [watching days of screenings], I would be in the back row, I would stand as much as possible ... I'd sit beside the aisle and stand up. My seat is always in the back row right beside the aisle." 

Before the lights go down

There are also preventative measures moviegoers can take long before the lights go down.

"Before you go to the movie theatre, go see your health-care provider," Lisser suggests.

"You can get a massage therapist to massage you and kind of preemptively loosen your muscles, or chiropractic or physical therapy. They're all equally amazing."

Additionally, keeping spinal discs hydrated by drinking lots of water and loosening muscles by stretching can also help.

TIFF's longest film, the black-and-white Filipino drama From What is Beforeclocks in at over 5½ hours. Not only will drinking water before a movie that long help keep your discs lubricated, it'll also guarantee a trip or two to the restroom, which would offer a back-friendly opportunity for stretching your legs.

The Toronto International Film festival runs Sept. 4-14.