The object of this paper is to give biochemists some insight into current thinking on back pain. I shall discuss the important, but limited, relationship of back pain to the principal pathological changes in the lumbar intervertebral discs. I shall point out some of the areas where scientists may be able to help clinicians understand and treat this common, but complex, condition. The literature on back pain is enormous, so I have made no attempt to select even a small part of it for this article.

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