Ah, the modern American back. It’s estimated that about 31 million Americans suffer from back pain. Has it always been that way, or is our modern lifestyle to blame for all this distress? Are there places where back pain barely exists? In a word, yes. As Esther Gokhale, an acupuncturist and researcher from Palo Alto, California, has discovered, there are indigenous cultures around the world for whom back pain is not an issue.
What’s the difference between us and them? Gokhale believes it has a lot to do with posture. If you look at ancient statues, the spines do not form the S shape we’re used to seeing in modern culture. Rather, it’s more of a J, with the back remaining almost flat until it curves out with the buttocks. After studying the works of noted anthropologists, and traveling around the world to visit cultures far removed from modern life, Gokhale realized that people in those remote cultures have the same J shape to their spines.
Those same J shaped spines are seen in drawings by Leonardo da Vinci, and in photos taken in the early 20th century. Closer to home, you can see it in the spines of very young children. Gokhale believes that this J shape is the secret to a healthy, pain-free back, and her work has earned her the title of “posture guru” in the Bay Area. She’s written a book, developed a set of exercises, and set up a studio to help people overcome back problems. But is she correct? The jury is still out.
Some doctors and scientists think she might be on to something, but others believe that more data is needed. This is what we do know: getting that J shaped spine means carrying less belly fat, and having strong core muscles. So maybe what indigenous peoples have over the typical American is a more active lifestyle, and a stronger core. And we don’t need a team of researchers to confirm what we already know: less weight and stronger core muscles will have a positive impact on the spine, as well as on many other systems in the body.
At our clinic, we like to stay up to date on cutting edge information about spinal health, and living a healthy lifestyle. In that way, we can share this knowledge with our patients, in order to help them find their own paths to optimal health and wellness. If you’d like to learn more about how we can help you achieve a healthier life, call for a free consultation today.