Approximately 80 million Americans -- four out of five adults -- have back pain at some point in their lives. No one knows for sure why people suffer from low back pain. Only colds and sore throats top it as reasons for seeking medical attention.

It is also the leading cause of disability in American adults under age 45. About $20 billion is spent annually on back care, yet there is no national research foundation worrying or wondering about it. And until now, little definitive research has been done on how average people deal with back problems.

Two years in the making, this book by husband-and-wife writing team Arthur Klein, a writer and marketing consultant, and Dava Sobel, formerly a reporter and currently a medical writer, is based on information received from a survey of backache sufferers who responded to public notices and advertisements in publications such as Family Weekly, Prevention, The New York Times, Saturday Review and others.

The survey provides the information, ratings and advice in this book, and it comes from people of every age, income level and occupation -- and with every type of back problem.

New York Times publisher Arthur Ochs Sulzberger and New York Rangers goalie John Davidson participated. The youngest person to respond was a 10-year-old girl whose mother helped her fill out the survey, and the oldest participant was a 90-year-old woman who had just encountered back pain for the first time.

"Backache Relief" is divided into five parts. The first two parts offer data and statistics on the survey participants and general information on back practitioners -- both medical and nonmedical. Physiatrists (doctors of physical and rehabilitative medicine) and sports medicine specialists were rated the most effective medical doctors. The nonphysician practitioners rated as the most effective included physical therapists and yoga instructors. (It was stressed that most yoga positions are dangerous to do while you are experiencing back pain.)

Part 3 covers back treatments ranging from the most widely used approaches such as drugs, heat and exercises to the less common approaches such as acupuncture, yoga, cold therapy and the new, unusual, and seldom-used treatments such as biofeedback, foot reflexology and tai chi.

The last two parts of the book are the most interesting. Here you discover the nine myths about low back pain, and how to get rid of a pain in the neck. The chapter called "Twenty-Five Most Often-Mentioned, Proven-Effective Ways to Free Yourself of Back Pain" consists of the most popular and proven suggestions from the nearly 500 participants in the survey.

The main conclusion, however, is that America's most common and baffling pain can be controlled, reduced or done away with altogether.