This common pain could lead directly to disability

If you're locked in an on-again, off-again battle with back pain, you know that things can change on a moment's notice.

One minute, you're having a GREAT day, able to get out and do the things you love.

You can stay active... engaged... and healthy.

The next, things go south. Maybe you feel a pop or a click. Maybe you "slept funny" and wake up sore. Or maybe it just seems to happen out of the blue.

Whatever the cause, there's no going out now -- and even if you do get outside, that back pain will ensure that you can't enjoy yourself.

Now, the latest research shows how you're hardly alone.

Half of all seniors are battling back pain -- and it's not just a little soreness that you can tune out.

In many cases, it leads to struggles with walking, making it so difficult that many folks end up not going out at all.

That, in turn, leads to reduced mobility and poorer health, and -- over time -- it could steal some of your independence as you turn to others for help with daily tasks.

People who walk less also have a higher risk of chronic disease, including heart disease, and death.

The study shows the problem, but it doesn't point to a solution.

That's the rub, isn't it? Most docs will tell you that there really ISN'T a solution, beyond gobbling painkillers whenever your back acts up.

That's not an answer. That's a cop-out that leads to more pain and disability.

There are real solutions for back pain, but too many docs have no clue where to even begin to look. Most just pass out the pain pills. When the drugs stop working -- and they will -- they'll send you off for surgery.

Since the surgery doesn't actually address the cause of the pain, many people don't improve.

Some get worse.

Don't fall into that rut, because you can beat the pain without meds and without surgery.

First, look to your habits. Poor posture and low levels of physical activity -- including walking -- can cause or worsen pain. That triggers a downward spiral: Your pain causes your posture to get even worse and makes you walk even less.

It might seem tough to get moving when you've got pain, but keep at it. Walking and stretching can lead to dramatic improvements in pain levels.

Second, there are a number of non-drug therapies -- including topical MSM, acupuncture, massage, and osteopathic spinal manipulation -- that can work wonders for the most common forms of back pain.