Why Some Cultures Don’T Have Back Pain


Does your spine look like a C, an S or a J? Millions of people around the world suffer pain from too much sitting. Some have even switched to using standing desks, but are still in agony. Esther Gokhale, an acupuncturist and a posture guru says she has the answer.

Image showing a J type spine.

J type spineImage from Esther Gokhale's video lecture.

She says we have forgotten how to naturally use our bodies. And this is the reason so many of us suffer from neck pain, back pain, and other repetitive injuries.

Gokhale says that many people slump over too much into the shape of a C. Other people push their stomachs and chests forward while their back and butts are pulled back. When looked at from the side their spine is shaped like an S. While the C shape might feel more relaxed and the S shape feels tenser, she says that both are unnatural and a recipe for back pain.

Gokhale says that many indigenous cultures do not suffer from back pain at all and it is because of the shape of their spine, which is straight from the top and curves at the bottom. When looked at from the side, it is shaped like the letter J.

She originally started her research into posture after having back pain herself as a young mother. She described her pain as excruciating. She couldn't sleep at night and couldn't even pick up her baby. After getting surgery, she got some relief, but the pain returned. After hearing she would need surgery again, she knew the answer was not conventional medicine. She needed to think outside the box. After reading medical studies showing that traditional cultures didn't have these modern problems, she decided to study them first hand. She traveled the world exploring villages from Africa to Equador, studying how people stood, sat, moved and worked. Despite having very physically demanding lives, they were mostly pain-free.

Gokhale has written a book and made videos teaching proper standing and sitting techniques. And in Silicon Valley, she has become a posture guru to tech company executives. She has taught the CEO of Youtube and given classes at tech companies like Facebook and Google. While many medical professionals in California send their patients to Gokhale for posture coaching, not everyone is convinced. One California doctor believes that it may not be the J shape of the spine that is causing people from indigenous cultures and students of Gokhale to have less pain. He says it could be stronger stomach muscles that people from indigenous cultures naturally have, and that Gokhale's students learn through her exercises.