I`ve been thinking about taking up cello, but I`ve just heard that playing the cello can cause back problems. When I was a small kid, I had some trivial back problem which later disappeared, but I`m wondering now if I should better think about some other string instrument, such as viola, if playing the cello may strain the back too much... Any ideas?
Although it would depend on the nature of your back problems, but I have scoliosis which required surgery and I have been playing for years. In fact it may have made me a better cellist (it forced me to sit up straight!)
I have a middle back problem. For many years I had to sleep on the floor, but now I can sleep on a mattress again if it's not too soft. I still need chairs with backs, and I can't stand in one place very long.
When I play the piano I don't use a bench; I use a chair with a back. This doesn't work for the cello (and it's not ideal for the piano either), but I've found that at orchestral rehearsals there is enough dead time for me to rest my back. Orchestra performances have not been a particular problem either, but they might have been if I performed more often and if I performed longer programs without an intermission.
I also have a lower back problem which flares up occasionally. The cello does not affect this at all.
I do not maintain that playing the cello generally causes back problems (in my case it couldn't have since I hadn't played the cello for decades when I developed it), but if you have a middle back problem, your back needs support and playing the cello without stopping to rest your back will exacerbate that problem. How often you need to rest depends on how bad your back is, and the more support you give your back, the less of a problem you will have.
Personally, the cello has done wonders for my middle back problems. Ever since I started sitting up straight, I haven't had any back problems. Maybe the slouching is what caused them in the first place, but I'd prefer to think that playing the cello was more of a cure.
Now, neck problems... that's another story.
In any event, I'd recommend some decent stretching, especially if you're going to be playing for long periods at a time. Not only will it keep you looser, and less likely to tense up, it'll probably help you play better. A tense body is definitely not conducive to good celloing.