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Dr Sarah Brewer is here to solve your problems in The Max. Sarah graduated from Cambridge University as a doctor in 1983. She was a full-time GP for five years and now works in hospital medicine.

She writes on all aspects of health, and has written more than 25 popular health books.

Sarah is married to Richard and has a four-year old son, Saxon, and baby twins, Roman and Sapphire.

Write to her, in confidence, with any problem your family need solved, at The Max, Daily Record, One Central Quay, Glasgow G3 8DA.

MOST people suffer from back pain at some time during their life, especially those whose work involves heavy lifting or carrying, or who spend long periods of time sitting in one position or bending awkwardly.

If you are overweight and unfit, your back will not receive the support it needs from your abdominal muscles,.

Almost any day-to-day activity can bring it on, such as housework, gardening and over-vigorous exercise.

Children are also reporting more back pain as a result of carrying heavy text books all day, usually in rucksacks slung over one shoulder rather than worn correctly.

Most cases of back pain are due to excessive strain on muscles, ligaments and small joints.

As well as discomfort from the damaged tissues, the surrounding muscles may go into spasm so pain and tenderness spread over a larger area. More severe symptoms will occur if the soft, jelly-like centre of an intervertebral disc ruptures through the outer fibrous coating under pressure - a slipped disc.

The prolapsed centre of the disc may press on the root of a spinal nerve to cause muscle weakness, pins and needles, spasm and pain in the back. If the sciatic nerve is irritated, pain will shoot down the leg.

To help prevent back pain, it is important to lift correctly, keeping your back straight and bending at the hips and knees.

Non-specific back pain is usually treated with simple painkillers. If necessary, muscle relaxant drugs can reduce painful spasm and applying hot or cold compresses will also help.

Bed rest is no longer routinely recommended as keeping active has been shown to get you back to normal daily life more quickly.

Early mobilisation is essential. Manipulation from a chiropractor or osteopath is often effective and should be performed as early as possible - preferably within six weeks of the original injury.Q MY five-year-old son screams every time he sees a dog. I don't remember a dog frightening him and we've never had a pet. How can I help him get used to dogs?

AYOUR son has obviously been upset by a dog at some stage - it might even be a result of something he's seen on TV rather than in real life. You can try introducing him to dogs a little at a time - show him pictures, cartoons or films of dogs (eg 101 Dalmatians), give him a cuddly puppy toy, and finally take him to see a real litter of puppies to desensitise him. If the problem continues and is severe, a hypnotherapist or behavioural psychologist will be able to help.QMY 17-year-old daughter wants to go on a diet. She is only a little overweight - how should I handle this? I don't want her developing an eating disorder.

AIT is important not to make food and dieting an issue. The best way to maintain a healthy weight is to eat a well-balanced, healthy diet full of fresh fruit, vegetables and salad stuff, and to reduce intake of fatty foods. Help by preparing healthy meals for all the family (eg. vegetable soup, followed by baked potato, large mixed salad plus lean meat or cottage cheese) with fresh fruit and/or low fat yoghurt for dessert. It is important that your daughter does not skip meals in an effort to lose weight.

QI HAVE started to develop a few stubbly hairs on my chin. Is this normal or due to the approaching menopause?

QMOST women develop a few stray bristles on the chin or upper lip in later life - probably due to changes in hormone balance. Most cope with it by plucking them or using a depilatory cream especially designed for the face to dissolve them away regularly.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Apr 4, 2001
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