It's one of the most common conditions in the country -- but no matter how many times your doctor has seen it, he still doesn't know the first thing about treating it.

Some 80 percent of us have or will face back pain, and if you've "been there, done that" with your own doc, you know the drill. He'll make a few sympathetic noises, and then prescribe painkillers and steroids.

If that didn't work for you, you're not alone -- because neither the drugs nor the steroids will actually correct the problems that caused your back to bark in the first place.

And now, a new study confirms what you learned the hard way: Steroids simply don't work at all for back pain.

Researchers randomly assigned 84 patients who had battled sciatica for at least a month to injections of either steroids, the arthritis drug etanercept, or plain old saline solution in two sessions, two weeks apart.

After a month, those who got the drugs -- either one -- improved. That might sound good… until you see that the patients who got the saline solution also improved.

In fact, while patients who took steroids got a little more short-term relief, in the end there were no statistical differences between patients in any of the three groups.

In other words, simple saline matched drugs that cost $500 to $700 per treatment.

Obviously, no one is going to run out and get saline injections. And I'm sure patients (or their insurers) will continue to shell out big money for the drugs anyway.

Some will get better on their own and think it was the drugs. Others will get worse and end up with a referral to a surgeon.

But you don't have to go down that road. You can get real relief starting today, and all it takes is a little more movement.

The researchers behind the new study concluded that ordinary exercise is still the most effective way to beat back pain -- and I've found that stretching exercises in particular work well for many people.

If you need a little more immediate help, don't turn to painkillers. Turn to a natural anti-inflammatory proven to ease pain, such as MSM, bromelain, and turmeric or a non-drug treatment such as cold laser, chiropractic, acupuncture, and massage therapy.