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No Pain, Big Gain

How do back products retailers spell relief? S-A-L-E-S.

This story appears in the September 1998 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

America is a nation in pain--back pain. According to the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, back pain affects one in four Americans and is the second- leading cause of work absenteeism. Unlike many ailments, back pain is often brought on by nothing at all: A sedentary lifestyle, combined with long hours of sitting in awkward positions, puts a great deal of stress on the fragile cartilage discs that support and cushion the spine. These discs degenerate with age, making back pain a common complaint among seniors, whose numbers are expected by the U.S. Census Bureau to more than double from 34.3 million to 78.8 million people by 2050.

Although traditional medical remedies such as drugs and surgery can sometimes relieve or eliminate back pain, the high cost of health care and the chronic nature of back problems are prompting a growing number of back-pain sufferers to seek alternative methods of relief. "More people are taking responsibility for their own backs," says Dr. Joel Press, a Chicago physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist. "There's a lot [the medical industry] can offer in terms of education about what types of activities to do and what kinds of things to avoid, but I think people are taking the next step and asking what they can do about the problem."

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