Megan Hall blames her aching back on the back bend she did five years ago at an exuberant hot-yoga class. Since then, the Santa Rosa dental hygienist has tried everything from deep massage to cortisone injections to mail-order back contraptions to ease the chronic pain in her lower back.
When she feels it coming on, she does floor stretches and then ices her lower back.
The worst is when she's been standing most of the day at work and then keeps standing, while grocery shopping or cooking dinner.
"If I don't get down on the ground," she said, "I can't handle it."
Hall, 53, is in good, albeit miserable, company. Eighty percent of Americans suffer back pain that doesn't come from a broken bone or an illness but is at some point strong enough to make them call a doctor.
And here are some painful truths about this common malady: Lower back pain is largely inevitable and there is no real cure.
"Back pain is a part of life. It's part of aging," said Dr. Kirk Pappas, a sports medicine doctor at Kaiser Permanente in Santa Rosa.
"The spine ages," he said. "The joints settle. It's like that old cushion on your couch that gets flattened out."
Low back pain is a chronic recurring condition, said Pappas, "and that's the part that humans don't like. They want you to fix it. I want to fix it, too. Your doctor, your massage therapist, your hot-stone healer, your whatever, they want to fix you, too.