February 26, 2016 BY

I learned in anatomy at university that the human spine has several curves.

The cervical lordosis (neck is concave), thoracic kyphosis (upper-mid back is convex) and the lumbar lordosis (low back is concave), giving the appearance of an S-shaped spine.

But what if it is this shape that instigates back pain? And it was only in modern society that we witness the S shape?

Could there be other cultures that don’t experience back pain? Apparently, yes.

American acupuncturist Esther Gokhale – A CULTURAL THING?

believes that she’s discovered that having a J-shaped spine eradicates lower back pain.

After experiencing back pain first hand during pregnancy, having surgical intervention to heal a herniated disc and then for the problem to occur again a year later, Gokhale decided she wanted a permanent fix and that western medicine didn’t have the answer.

She began studying findings from anthropologists who had analysed postures of indigenous populations around the world and also studied physiotherapy methods.

For 10 years, Gokhale travelled to remote communities from Ecuador to Portugal to West Africa, all of which were far removed from modern life, observing their posture and movements of daily life.

After carrying buckets on their heads, bending over all day even the older generations didn’t complain of back pain.

The difference being their spines are shaped as a J.

The J-shaped spine can be observed in Greek and Egyptian statues, and closer to home in our children.

Gokhale developed a series of exercises, similar to Pilates and yoga that have enabled her to achieve a J-shaped spine and now, she doesn’t suffer back pain.

The alleviation of pain, however, may not be solely contributed to by the shape of the spine but by the muscular engagement required to achieve the J-shape.

Promoting a healthy lifestyle, by exercising to activate spinal and pelvic floor muscles, to build strength and decrease spinal curves (decreasing the lumbar lordosis and decreasing the kyphosis, opening the chest cavity) has been shown to help with back pain.

Are you experiencing back pain? Stand side on to the mirror, and notice do you have an S or J shaped spine? See a health care professional and then maybe try some Pilates and learn some spine muscle strengthening exercises.

Dr Erin Coffey is an osteopath at the Health Creation Centre in Ocean Grove.

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