That Aching Back!

Doctors take a new look at mankind's oldest, most stubborn agony

On a sunny day in Africa 10 million years ago, give or take a few million, Mr. and Mrs. Ramapithecus and their children were out foraging for food. Like their primate cousins in the forest, they usually swung gracefully from limb to limb searching out nuts, fruits and berries. But this day was different. A fierce rainstorm had knocked all their favorites off the branches, and the Ramas, alas, were forced to descend from the trees to find something to eat.

Moving awkwardly on all fours, knuckles bent,...

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