Healthy Living

Why don’t indigenous cultures have back pain?


If you’re reading this, your back probably hurts.

At least statistically.

An estimated 85% of people in the U.S. will suffer from back pain at some time during their lives.

But why?

Well according to one researcher, it’s all about your butt…or at least how much time you spend on it.

We all know how detrimental sitting for long periods of the day can be for your health, but Esther Gokhale, who suffered from back pain after having her first child, believes sitting is also fundamentally changing the shape of our spines.

While researching a permanent fix for her back, the acupuncturist traveled to tiny and remote villages across the world where back pain was non-existent.

What she discovered is that these people had more of a J-shape to their spines, while those in the West have an S-shape.

“The J-shaped spine is what you see in Greek statues. It’s what you see in young children. It’s good design,” Gokhale told NPR Radio during a recent interview.

Scientists who have looked at Gokhale’s findings believe differences in spine shape could be attributed to the more sedentary lifestyle in the West.

“I think the sedentary lifestyle promotes a lack of muscle tone and a lack of postural stability because the muscles get weak,” Dr. Praveen Mummaneni, a neurosurgeon at the University of California — San Francisco’s Spine Center, told the NPR reporter.

Mummaneni also said that it’s not necessarily the J-shape that contributes to better health, it’s what goes into making that shape—the muscles surrounding the spine. If those aren’t being strengthened by regular activity, you’re going to have problems.

This makes sense when you look at indigenous populations, who tend to have pronounced abdominal muscles and a lifestyle that keeps them that way even as they age.

Those in the West shouldn’t lose hope, however. Becoming more active and eating better will not only help with back pain, but has proven to help people live longer, healthier and happier as well.