Do you suffer from back pain? Join the club – it’s 65 million strong! That’s right. An estimated 65 million Americans suffer from back pain. Back pain is the second most common reason that American dial up their doctors. For one-third of back pain sufferers, treatment will be unsuccessful and the pain will become chronic.
Many proposed treatments and solutions exist for back pain, most with mixed reviews. Today NPR highlighted a popular approach known as the Gokhale Method. This method of invented by Esther Gokhale. Instead of focusing on exercises for the back, Gokhale helps people learn proper posture for sitting, standing, and even sleeping.
Gokhale traveled the globe to study posture and rates of back pain in different cultures. She observed what I have heard many other people observe – that in some cultures back pain is non-existent despite people spending hours a day carrying heavy objects, bending over, or squatting. Gokhale attributes the lack of back pain in these cultures to the shape of people’s spine. Instead of having an S-shaped spine, people in these back-pain free cultures have a J-shaped spine. This J-shape, according to Gokhale, reduces pressure on the lower spine and pelvic floor and allows for space between the vertebrae. Western cultures have forgotten how to sit properly and have distorted our spines as a result.
As NPR pointed out, Gokhale has thousands of satisfied followers, but it’s not clear that J-shaped spine is the key to being pain free. As a Dr. Praveen Mummaneni, a neurosurgeon at the University of California, San Francisco’s Spine Center points out, achieving Gokhale-method posture requires strengthening of the core and buttocks. Stronger core and butt muscles alone may help relieve back pain. The long hours that people spend sitting in their chairs, let’s their middles turn to mush. Without a core to support the spine, it has to do more work than it was designed for. The design of chairs also encourages people to have a C-shaped spine, rather than even an S-shaped one. Look around any office and you will find people with rounded backs and shoulders, hunched over computers. The C-shape places tremendous pressure on the spine and causes discomfort after just a few short hours.
Perhaps the key to reliving back pain is not a perfect kind of posture, but rather less time spent in chairs and more movement for the body. At Rebel Desk, we regularly hear from customers about who want to relieve back pain and who find that relief by adding standing and walking into their day. Give your back a break and try pushing that chair aside more often!