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Indigenous Cultures and Back Pain - Fun Fit Yoga

Indigenous Cultures and Back Pain

What do those primal cultures know about back pain that we don’t? Well there’s only one way to find out. Check it out here.

 

Primal posture: Ubong tribesmen in Borneo (right) display the perfect J-shaped spines. A woman in Burkina Faso (left) holds her baby so that his spine stays straight. The center image shows the S-shaped spine drawn in a modern anatomy book (Fig. I) and the J-shaped spine (Fig. II) drawn in the 1897 anatomy book Traite d’Anatomie Humaine. Courtesy of Esther Gokhale and Ian Mackenzie/Nomads of the Dawn hide caption

itoggle caption Courtesy of Esther Gokhale and Ian Mackenzie/Nomads of the Dawn

Primal posture: Ubong tribesmen in Borneo (right) display the perfect J-shaped spines. A woman in Burkina Faso (left) holds her baby so that his spine stays straight. The center image shows the S-shaped spine drawn in a modern anatomy book (Fig. I) and the J-shaped spine (Fig. II) drawn in the 1897 anatomy book Traite d’Anatomie Humaine.

Courtesy of Esther Gokhale and Ian Mackenzie/Nomads of the Dawn

Editor’s note, June 10: We have added an acknowledgement of several sources that Esther Gokhale used while developing her theories on back pain. These include physiotherapy methods, such as the Alexander Technique and the Feldenkrais Method, and the work of anthropologist Noelle Perez-Christiaens.

Back pain is a tricky beast. Most Americans will at some point have a problem with their backs. And for an unlucky third, treatments won’t work, and the problem will become chronic.

Many ancient statues, such as this one from Greece, display a J-shaped spine. The statue’s back is nearly flat until the bottom, where it curves so the buttocks are behind the spine. Courtesy of Esther Gokhale/Gerard Mackworth-Young hide caption

itoggle caption Courtesy of Esther Gokhale/Gerard Mackworth-Young

Many ancient statues, such as this one from Greece, display a J-shaped spine. The statue’s back is nearly flat until the bottom, where it curves so the buttocks are behind the spine.

Courtesy of Esther Gokhale/Gerard Mackworth-Young

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. And the discs in their backs showed little signs of degeneration as people aged.

An acupuncturist in Palo Alto, Calif., thinks she has figured out why. She has traveled around the world studying cultures with low rates of back pain — how they stand, sit and walk. Now she’s sharing their secrets with back pain sufferers across the U.S.

About two decades ago, Esther Gokhale started to struggle with her own back after she had her first child. “I had excruciating pain. I couldn’t sleep at night,” she says. “I was walking around the block every two hours. I was just crippled.”

Gokhale had a herniated disc. Eventually she had surgery to fix it. But a year later, it happened again. “They wanted to do another back surgery. You don’t want to make a habit out of back surgery,” she says.

This time around, Gokhale wanted to find a permanent fix for her back. And she wasn’t convinced Western medicine could do that. So Gokhale started to think outside the box. She had an idea: “Go to populations where they don’t have these huge problems and see what they’re doing.”

 

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