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Why Some Cultures Have Minimal to No Back Pain

Back pain is a part of life for many Americans. According to a study, a third of Americans 50 years and older suffer from chronic neck pain and chronic back pain. Other studies put the number of back pain suffers at 60-80% of Americans.

Chronic pain conditions tend to increase from age 25 to 60. Currently, back pain is the leading cause of disability in Americans over the age of 45. Truly, it’s a widespread problem affecting many individuals.

Cultures with No Back Pain
Many are surprised to learn that in a few cultures on earth back pain is actually non-existent. Certain tribes in India show no degeneration in the spine, and there is virtually no back pain reported.

Esther Gokhale, a researcher who studies the posture of people without back pain, gives us some insight into what can help us enjoy a pain-free life. She found that villagers in Ecuador, Portugal, and West Africa had differently shaped spines compared to Americans. They have J-shaped rather than S-shaped spines. Many of the people in these communities worked long hours and carried heavy objects, developing stronger core muscles.

What accounts for the different spine shape? Many of the people in these communities worked long hours doing physical labor and carried heavy objects, developing stronger core muscles. These stronger abdominal muscles were seen throughout the cultures she studied.

American Lifestyle Leads to S-shaped Spines
While there are many reasons why American posture is frequently S-shaped, one reason is Americans tend to be much heavier. Americans are also much less active than people in traditional indigenous cultures. A sedentary lifestyle is known to promote a lack of muscle tone and a lack of postural stability. Weak abdominal muscles can, in effect, contribute to back pain.

After her studies, Gokhale worked on her own back pain—and that of her clients—to help change the shape of the spine. She endeavored to change the spine to be more J-shaped. She has reported success for many of her clients, claiming she assists them to relieve their pain in this way. Her methods vary, and many of them center around developing stronger core muscles.

Gokhale now helps educate individuals on how to build up their core muscles, often without them even knowing it. She helps her clients go from the S-shaped to the J-shaped spine.

Lessons from Indigenous Cultures
While indigenous people around the world don’t have a magic potion for stopping back and spine pain, we can learn from their lifestyle. They’ve got beefy abdominal muscles, and their active daily routines help to keep them strong, even as they age.

What can Americans take away from this? Staying active and working to improve our core abdominal muscles may not be a cure-all for back pain, but it can certainly help. Especially for individuals with sedentary professions, taking the time to take breaks, exercise, stretch, and live a lifestyle that involves activity may have long-term benefits for our backs. Here’s a quick article on stretches to help minimize back pain.

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