Why indigenous people don't suffer from back pain

3 Workout Moves to Banish Back Pain
Most Americans experience back pain at some point in their lives. And for an unlucky 31 percent of them, treatments won't work, and the pain will become chronic.

Believe it or not, there are a few cultures in the world where back pain hardly exists. One indigenous tribe in Central India reported essentially none.

Esther Gokhale, an acupuncturist in Palo Alto, Calif., believes she has figured out why.

Gokhale first started suffering from back pain after having her first child. The pain was so bad she eventually had surgery. But a year later, the pain returned and the doctors wanted to put her under once again.

Frustrated by the treatment she was receiving, she decided to search for a permanent solution herself. She traveled to the mountains in Ecuador, tiny fishing towns in Portugal, and remote villages of West Africa. Basically, cultures that were far removed from modern life.

She took special note of the women who spent seven to nine hours bent over, gathering chestnuts. Mysteriously, they didn't have back pain. Their posture was "regal."

Upon closer observation, she noticed that their spines were flat all the way down the back and then curved at the bottom to stick the butt out. She discovered the ideal spine was J-shaped.

By contrast, the American spine is shaped more like an 'S'. It curves at the top and then again at the bottom, which is actually unnatural.

Gathering from her learnings, Gokhale worked her spine into a J-shape, and is now helping others to do the same. She wrote a book and has set up shop in downtown Palo Alto.

Scientists at the University of California, San Francisco's Spine Center, are still unsure if Gokhale's J-shape spine theory is accurate. But what they do know is that the people with J-shaped spines had to develop muscle strength to get their spines to look that way.

Americans are much more sedentary than traditional cultures. A sedentary lifestyle promotes a lack of muscle tone and a lack of posture stability because the muscles get weak.

So it's not that indigenous people have the golden ticket to stopping back pain. They've just got strong abdominal muscles and their lifestyle helps keep them that way.

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