Back pain is so commonplace, it seems almost impossible that there are places in the world where it isn't an issue at all. Esther Gokhale, a licensed acupuncturist from Palo Alto, California, told NPR that she visited remote populations in Ecuador, Portugal and West Africa where back problems are virtually nonexistent.
After experiencing excruciating back pain herself, Gokhale wanted to figure out just what they were doing differently. According to Gokhale's assessment, it all comes down to the shape of your spine.
"That S-shaped spine is actually not natural," she said, referring to the Western notion of proper posture. "It's a J-shaped spine that you want."
This means that your spine is flat all the way down your back with a curve at the bottom to stick your butt out. Once Gokhale figured this out, she began training her back to fall into that position, and over time, her back pain disappeared.
Now, Gokhale helps others to do the same. She pinpoints shoulders as one of the biggest posture-related problems leading to back pain. Compared to the villages she visited, Americans tend to hunch their shoulders forward.
Rishi Loatey, chiropractor at the British Chiropractic Association, told the Guardian that back pain sufferers can do a stretching exercise to reverse the effects of hunching.
He recommends standing with feet slightly wider than your hips with your arms outstretched on either side of you. Bend your arms at your elbows in a right angle and face your palms outward, pulling your shoulder blades together.
"Start making small, backwards circles with your arms and hands, keeping your shoulder blades drawn together," he said. "Once you're into a rhythm, start swaying gently from side to side."
Loatey says this stretch should last around 10 seconds and be completed once or twice a day.
If your posture is causing your back pain, schedule an appointment with a professional chiropractor today.