Learning from other societies to reduce back pain

02 September 2015

Back pain doesn’t need to be part of your life. Find out how to relieve it with these simple moves.

Believe it or not, back pain isn’t something that naturally happens as you get older.

There are some countries where people are far less likely to suffer with back pain, than here in the UK where about 30 million days of work are lost each year because of back ache.

This is why Esther Gokhale, an acupuncturist who had treated many patients for back pain, decided to research what people on those places did differently.

She visited places like Ecuador, India, Portugal, and West Africa, where rates of back pain were dramatically lower and, in some areas, non-existent.

The people in these places weren’t easy on their backs, they carried heavy loads, worked at tasks that required lots of bending, and even sat on the ground all day long working on crafts.

So how is it that they didn’t get back ache? The key, Esther found, lies in the position of the spine.

Your spine shape and most others’ in the UK and other western countries like the US is in the form of a ‘s’, whereas in these other places, the locals’ spine shape was more like a ‘j’. And in fact, children’s spines also mimic the ‘j’ shape, adding further evidence to the idea that it’s more natural and that over time, our backs take on the less natural – and more likely to cause pain – shape of an ‘s’.

Esther isn’t able to say why our spines are shaped this way, while others’ aren’t, the research hasn’t been done in order to ascertain that, but theories include that it’s because of our sedentary lifestyles or excess weight.

Statistics from the British Chiropractic Association show that office workers are most likely to suffer with back, backing up the idea that being sedentary and hunched over a computer keyboard is at least partly at fault.

What’s more,  Esther found that by changing her own way of standing, sitting and lying, she was able to relieve her own chronic back pain and since then, that of hundreds of others, too.

Some quick fixes she suggest is to avoid trying too hard to sit or stand straight, and instead to roll your shoulders back but allow your thumbs to point out to the sides of your body rather than head or towards the inside.

This emulates the way our ancestors used to stand, she says, and helps work your abdominal muscles.

If you try and squeeze your glutes (your bottom muscles) together too, as you walk, you’ll be working two sets of muscles that help support your back.

Then, you can also try these two simple moves, to see a difference.

“Stretch sitting makes sitting more comfortable for longer periods of time,” says Esther. “It turns sitting into a healthy and even healing activity. To enjoy some gentle traction while you are sitting, do this:”

  • Push your bottom back in the chair, lean forward and bend slightly at the waist.
  • Grab onto the side bars of the chair (the bars that support the arms of the chair), and push with your hands to lift the torso up just a bit, while still keeping your ribs in.
  • Lean back and hook yourself to the chair, let yourself relax against the back rest.

“Stretch lying allows you to get a gentle stretch in your back all night long, allowing for a restful night’s sleep with healthy length in your spine. To get this stretch in your back, try this:”

  • Lie on your back with one pillow under your head and just a little bit under your shoulders, and one pillow under your knees.
  • Prop yourself up on your elbows.
  • With the ribs in, dig into your elbows and add a stretch to your spine as you settle yourself back down to the bed.
  • Lengthen the back of your neck by tucking the chin in, press the shoulders down towards your feet, and away from your ears.

“Relax and enjoy!” adds Esther. 

Interested in a free online workshop? Click here for more information.

You can also buy Esther’s book here http://gokhalemethod.com/8-steps-pain-free-back or via Amazon. 

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