Oh, My Aching Back

I’m not getting any younger. My back can attest to that. I wake up several times a night because the pain in my lower back makes me feel the need to shift positions. I can’t remember the last time this was not the case. It makes for a very tiring experience.

Many months ago I heard this story on NPR about a woman named Esther Gokhale who studied indigenous cultures that exhibited very little back pain, and she posits the theory that their spines are J shaped, rather than S shaped like the average American’s. There could be several reasons for this. They don’t spend hours hunched over a computer. They aren’t overweight. They exercise more, which means they have stronger abdominal muscles, which better support the spine. Whatever it is, I’ll take some of that, and come back for seconds.

When I learned about this, I instantly heard my mother’s voice in my head saying, “Sit up straight!” Mom always knew best. But maybe not. According to Gokhale, this just positions you for a world of hurt. Instead, you should roll your shoulders up and back to open up the chest, and take a deep breath to stretch and lengthen the spine.

If you read the NPR story you’ll see 5 ways to make your spine more J shaped. Even taking these steps for a few seconds made me feel better. And after practicing these steps for just a few days, I’m already experiencing significant change. My favorite step is squeezing your gluteus medius muscle every time you take a step. It helps your back while giving you the butt you had when you were 19. Oh, yeah. I’m DEFINITELY going to do this! (Of course, I’m not a doctor, so you might want to consult with yours before doing anything.)

I suspect that maintaining this more regal posture will do things for my self-confidence as well. That will be fodder for a future blog entry. Until then, three cheers for better back health!

s spine vs j spine
S vs J shaped spine, via npr.org.
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