A new neck ailment is showing up on X-rays all over the country. Doctors have named it price-lexia. It is caused by people trying to read price tags in store windows upside down. The harder the prices are to read, the more discomfort they cause to someone's neck. Some window shoppers are showing up at emergency rooms with their heads completely twisted around.

Magda Marchesini, an orthopedic surgeon, said, "I am seeing more and more advanced cases of price-lexia. People will stand in front of a jewelry store for hours trying to make out what is on the tiny tags and not think about what they are doing to their necks."

"Couldn't the store owners put big prices on their merchandise so the window shoppers could read them?" I asked.

"They could, but they don't want to. Retailers know that if people can read the prices they won't come into the store."

I asked Dr. Marchesini what the cure for price-lexia was.

"The first thing I have to do is straighten out the person's neck. I do this by putting his head in a vise and stretching it as far as it will go. Then I let him stay in that position for four hours while I go Christmas shopping. When I come back he can usually move his neck again."

"You don't keep him overnight?"

"Only if he has been trying to read the prices in a jewelry store window. Then I put him in intensive care. The important thing for recovery is to train a window shopper to avert his eyes when going past a display."

"Can anyone look at the merchandise without looking at the prices?"

"No, because it is no fun to go window shopping without checking the prices."

"Is there any permanent damage involved with price-lexia?"

"Only if you go in and buy the stuff. I don't like to operate on someone's neck, but sometimes the customers are so bent over that I have no choice. A man came in the other day and admitted to being on his knees in front of Tiffany's. It was the worst case of price-lexia I had ever seen."

"Is he okay now?"

"He recovered and can now read a menu in a restaurant window."

The doctor said that people should be careful about how many prices they try to read.

She said, "The key is to turn your head upside down in moderation. One window at Gucci's won't hurt you. But if you try to read all the prices in the displays at Macy's, don't be surprised if your head falls off."