Over the years, multiple treatments and remedies have been developed to alleviate the excruciating effects of chronic lower back pain.
People who experience long-term back pain often resort to strong sets of painkillers as prescribed by their doctors, especially if the pain is disrupting daily activities.
But there are other alternatives as well. Past research has shown that mind-based therapies such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and mindfulness may be more effective in easing back pain than conventional treatments.
Unfortunately, for a third of Americans, treatments for back pain do not take effect as simply, and the problem will become chronic, according to the National Public Radio.
Believe it or not, however, some cultures in the world hardly ever experience lower back pain. Such as the experience of an indigenous tribe located in central India, which has essentially reported none. The discs on their back even showed little signs of degeneration even as they aged, experts said.
The Secret To A Painless Lower Back?
Esther Gokhale, an acupuncturist from California, says she has figured out why people from the indigenous tribe seem to experience no lower back pain at all. Gokhale has traveled across the world and studied cultures with low rates of back pain.
Years ago, Gokhale herself suffered enormous back pain after having her first child. It was a herniated disc, and she needed surgery to fix it. However, a year after her surgery, the pain resurfaced.
Gokhale was not convinced that Western medicine could permanently cure her chronic back pain. She studied research from anthropologists such as Noelle Perez-Christiaens who examined the postures of indigenous peoples. Gokhale also looked into the physiotherapy methods including the Feldenkrais Method and the Alexander Technique.
Over the next 10 years, Gokhale traveled to the fishing towns of Portugal, the remote villages of West Africa and the mountains of Ecuador.
The first thing that she found in common among the populations of places she visited was the shape of their spine. Gokhale said they all seemed to have this "regal posture," and the shape of their spine were very different than that of Americans.
For instance, the spine of an American is shaped like the letter "S." But Gokhale did not see this among the people she visited.
"That S shape is actually not natural," said Gokhale. "It's a J-shaped spine that you want."
Although Gokhale's study is compelling, is it accurate?
Neurosurgeon Praveen Mummaneni says scientists have yet to determine whether Gokhale's theory is correct, especially because no one has done a study on why some cultures tend to have lower rates of back pain.
However, Mummaneni says there are a lot of reasons why Americans tend to have the S-shaped spine.
One reason is that most Americans are heavier. The fat that accumulates in the belly could put the weight forward and curve the spine.
Another reason is that the sedentary lifestyles of most Americans promote lack of postural stability and lack of muscle tone. This results in pain in the lower back.
How To Keep Back Pain Away And Maintain Proper Posture
So how does one avoid the risk of chronic back pain and maintain proper posture? Gokhale has listed five practical tips that may help you achieve that.
1. Perform a shoulder roll. Gently pull your shoulders up, push them back and let them drop.
2. Lengthen your spine. Be careful not to arch your back, but take breathe deeply and grow tall. Maintain this height as you exhale.
3. Squeeze your gluteal muscles, which make up your buttocks, whenever you walk.
4. Do not put your chin up but add length to your neck by adding a lightweight object such as a washcloth or a bean bag and balance it on top of your crown.
5. Do not sit up straight. Gokhale says this is just arching your back and it will get you into "trouble."
Photo: Christine Vaufrey | Flickr