The best of three new AMA health guides--helpful in explaining back anatomy, the various back disorders, and their medical treatment, weaker as regards preventive and self-help measures. (The pattern, in general, of the series.) Backaches, the authors point out, usually involve muscle, bone, connective tissue, and nerves; as a result, they are complicated and often chronic--and one of the most common reasons for visits to physicians. As to whether ""our unique posture is the cause of our human propensity toward back trouble,"" that is ""not a very productive thesis""; we can't, after all, change it. The actual, immediate causes of back pain--from non-back disorders (e.g., vascular and kidney problems) to herniated discs, arthritis, osteoporosis, infections, sprains, and fractures--are well explained in terms of the structures affected and the changes that occur. Advice regarding medical treatment is thorough--starting with when to see a doctor (persistent problems, traveling pain), who else might help (chiropractors receive brief, non-judgmental notice), and how to describe what's wrong. Diagnostic procedures and medical, surgical, and supporting treatments are described but not evaluated: the book is set up to let patients know what will happen, not to enable them to make choices. For more advocacy, along with a fuller discussion of ""What You Can Do About Your Back"" (confined here to brief recommendations for weight loss, posture improvement, etc.), try The No More Back Trouble Book (1980), edited by Edith Rudinger. For specifics on what's normal and what goes wrong, this is clear and informative.