I have had bad backaches in the past and even wore a brace. Seems I may have had a "small"case of polio when I was a kid. Now I wear a lift and everything is fine. But when the pain was bad, it was terrible. The Agency for Health Care Policy and Research says that 90% of all back problems clear up in a month. And they suggest

1. Stop doing whatever triggered the pain BUT DO NOT GO TO BED! Those who stay active get better faster.

2. Take acetaminophen or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Take it easy on muscle relaxants. 3. Consider an osteopath or chiropractor for short periods of time.

They found that ultrasound, traction, support belts, massages, biofeedback, acupuncture or injections to be inconclusive.

You can call the Texas Back Institute's Nurses' Back Pain Hotline at 800 247-BACK.

For a free pamphlet Understanding Acute Low Back Problems, call the AHCPR at 800 358-9295 or write to AHCPR Publications Clearinghouse, PO Box 8547, Silver Spring, MD 20907

For info on spine centers around the country, send a self addressed stamped envelope to Back Pain Association of America, PO Box 135, Pasadena, MD 21123-0135.

A doctor said that 40% to 60% of patients with chronic back pain become clinically depressed. For a list of pain centers that might help, write to American Pain Society, 4700 W Lake Ave, Glenview, IL 60025

As for myself, the best way to stay clear of pain was, outside of the lift, exercise. And lots of it. Even moderate weight lifting helps since, once the muscles get strong, they take over much of the problems that the back might encounter from being weak and out of shape. Only one drawback (?)- you must maintain a discipline of exercise for the rest of your life. But I think this is an excellent tradeoff to pain each and every day.