The stats aren't pretty. More than 80 percent of us will have back pain at some point in our lives, and it's the second most common reason we see a doctor (numero uno: headaches). Nonetheless, most athletes know as much about the inside of the human back as they do about the innards of a heart-rate monitorand doctors are often in a similar state of ignorance. Whereas knee problems can be quickly diagnosed with an MRI and often solved with routine surgery, lower-back pain involves so many variables and moving partstendons, muscles, and multiple jointsthat pinpointing the problem can be similar to reading tea leaves. Without a proper diagnosis, the infamous but ambiguous "bad back" plagues many to the grave; surgery, meanwhile, is a last resort that can't solve every problem. Depressed yet? Don't be: There's plenty of information out there to make sure you never start resembling Quasimodo. Even better, we've done the homework for you. After talking to dozens of back specialists and combing through the latest research, we've devised a back-specific exercise-and-treatment plan that will keep you upright and in the game forever. Taking apart your heart-rate monitor is up to you.
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