Plank it!  Easy ways to ease chronic pain in your back, head and knees

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By Joy Jernigan

Tens of millions of Americans suffer from chronic pain, from lower back pain to knee problems to migraines. The pain can debilitating and often lasts for months -- and it takes a toll on your body.

While medicine can alleviate symptoms, there are alternative methods to get at the underlying cause.

Back pain
More than 31 million Americans experience back pain. While medicine or cortisone shots can be used to address the initial pain symptoms, sports medicine physician Dr. Jordan Metzl of New York City's Hospital for Special Surgery also recommends exercises to strengthen the core.

Recommended exercise: planks

Hold yourself parallel to the floor, with your weight resting on your hands or elbows and feet. Hold for 30 seconds to 1 minute.

“The idea of this exercise is it strengthens both the front and the back muscles at the same time,” Metzl said.

Knee pain
About 30 percent of American adults experience knee pain. The first step is to identify the cause and control the pain, Metzl said. Once the pain is addressed, Metzl recommends exercises to strengthen the muscles around the knee.

Recommended exercise: squats

Stand with feet about shoulder width apart, arms in, and bend the knees. Start with a few at first, then slowly increase the number.

“That’s called a plyometric, and he’s built a ton of strength.”

Headaches and migraines
About 54 percent of migraine sufferers experience one or more episodes per month. While medicines can help reduce the disability associated with migraines, lifestyle and behavorial changes may help decrease the frequency, said Dr. Audrey Halpern, a neurologist at New York University's Langone Medical Center. “Regular exercise, eating a healthy and well-balanced diet, and especially getting enough sleep.”