Back and neck pain two of the most common health problems in the world, affecting billions of people every year. But many indigenous tribes report virtually no back pain at all, and statues from the ancient world depict men and women with perfect spine structure — leading experts to wonder just where modern civilizations went wrong.
More Than Just Aches And Pains
For U.S. residents with back pain, a third won’t respond to treatment and will develop a chronic pain condition. Not only that, but back pain is the leading cause of disability in Americans under 45, and experts estimate that as many as 45% of U.S. workers suffer from neck pain.
Now, an acupuncturist from California thinks she’s zeroed in on the answer to this science riddle. Esther Gokhale spent decades travelling the world studying cultures without widespread back pain, from the mountains of Ecuador to remote West African villages.
Gokhale told NPR‘s “Morning Edition”:
“I went to villages where every kid under age 4 was crying because they were frightened to see somebody with white skin — they’d never seen a white person before…I have a picture in my book of these two women who spend seven to nine hours everyday, bent over, gathering water chestnuts. They’re quite old. But the truth is they don’t have back pain.”
Modern Problem, Ancient Solution
Gokhale says that the human spine naturally forms a “J” shape, which can be seen in ancient sculptures, early medical textbooks, and even the notebooks of Leonardo DaVinci. But modern men and women have “S” shaped spines, which contributes to widespread, chronic back pain.
The acupuncturist may be ahead of the medical community in this regard. Few studies have been done in this area, and so Gokhale went ahead and developed a set of exercises aimed at preventing lower back pain.
Many high-profile U.S. doctors are embracing her new method, and confirming her theories about the risks of “S” shaped spines. And the back pain epidemic is still getting worse in developed countries. In the U.K., doctors say younger and younger men are reporting chronic pain, with nearly one in four British men reporting daily pain.