A report suggests that the best remedy for back pain is also the one least often prescribed by doctors — exercise.

Researchers at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill analyzed more than 20 studies involving treatments for roughly 30,000 patients with acute lower back pain. They found that exercise alone or in combination with education can help to prevent lower back pain.

What kind of exercise — strength training or cardio — did not seem to matter. Other treatment methods such as back belts or orthotic insoles were not effective in preventing lower back pain, said the report, which was published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.

Recurrence of lower back pain is common within the first year, researchers said. But physical activity, they suggest, does wonders to strengthen the muscles that support the back and helps folks avoid another round of ice packs and missed workdays.

Death rates rise for middle-aged whites

The mortality rate for middle-aged white Americans is going up — contrary to what’s happening with everyone else in the world — and a provocative new report explores why.

From 1999 to 2014, deaths among white Americans ages 22 to 56 increased at the same time that life expectancy figures across the globe were going up, according to a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Heart disease, diabetes and respiratory disease are among the conditions that have contributed to rising death rates.

Hardest hit were those living in seven Southern states, researchers wrote in the Commonwealth Fund report. Whites lacking a four-year college degree also were especially vulnerable. The findings suggest that “changing social and economic forces are a possible explanation.”

The study cited the following underlying causes: “less educated workers’ increasing disengagement from the mainstream economy; declining levels of social connectedness; weakened communal institutions, and the splintering of society along class, geographic and cultural lines.” □