Esther Gokhale had severe back pains, which required surgery, after having her first child. Within a year after her surgery, the pain came back and doctors recommended another surgery. Instead of giving in to it, she decided to do her own research and figure out why the pain was happening.
She traveled to populations that didn’t have back problems and studied what they were and weren’t doing. Gokhale spent her time studying the findings from anthropologists and also studied different physiotherapy methods. Gokhale spent the better part of an entire decade traveling to different countries and observing how indigenous people lived their lives. She found that young people, old people, and everyone in between lives their life the same way no matter what age they were.
The reason they could do that is because they didn’t have to endure back pain.
“I have a picture in my book of these two women who spend seven to nine hours every day, bent over, gathering water chestnuts,” Gokhale says. “They’re quite old. But the truth is they don’t have a back pain.”
One of Gokhale’s main findings is that indigenous people have J-shaped spines instead of the S-shaped spines that a lot of people have. The root source to getting a proper spine shape is to have strong abdominal muscles and constantly use them. The people that have proper spines aren’t intentionally trying to keep a good shaped spine, they are just constantly active and their day-to-day lives help strengthen their muscles.
So what did Gokhale find that could help us average Joe’s that don’t use our ab muscles on a regular basis?
Here are five things you can practice over time that will help your shape up your spine properly.
1. Roll Your Shoulders
Whether we do our jobs sitting or standing all day, most up us scrunch our shoulders forward. Not only is it bad posture, but it can also lead to back problems. In order to train yourself to have the correct posture, pull your shoulders up, push them back and let them drop so your arms are dangling by your side. Repeating that process several times a day will have you headed in the right direction.
2. Add to your Spine
This may seem impossible, but it’s actually easier than you would think. All you have to do is take a deep breath and stand tall. As you exhale, remain standing tall and repeat that. You will soon notice after a few repetitions that your abs are getting a little tight, which is a good thing because it’s strengthening them.
3. Tighten your Glutes
People in many indigenous cultures squeeze their glutes together when they walk in order to support their lower back. Not only will it help support your back, but if you constantly squeeze your glutes when you walk around, then you’ll have a pretty nice looking backside eventually.
4. Lengthen your Neck
The first thing that people will try to do when we say to lengthen their neck is put their chin up in the air. That will actually do more harm than good. Instead, put an object on your head, like a folded washcloth, and try to push your head up against it. This will force you to keep your chin down so the washcloth will remain on your head, and you will be less likely to cause any damage to your neck or back.
5. Don’t Slouch or Sit Straight Up
You may have been told that you slouch too much when you sit, but most people tell you to sit up straight instead. However, what you should really be doing is lengthening your spine by doing the shoulder rolls described in point number one above.
So what Gokhale found isn’t exactly rocket science. People in our country who have strong abdominal muscles probably won’t have back issues either. However, most people don’t have the strong ab muscles that are needed to support the back, so these findings are useful and relevant to most people. So start working on those abs to ensure you won’t have back problems in the near future!