A survey conducted from 2014-15 shows that 16% of the Australian population have back problems. That’s 3.7 million people with ailing backs in Australia alone.
In addition, experts estimate that 70 to 90% of the general population are bound to suffer from some form of lower back pain at a certain point in their lives.
Some scientists attribute these mass incidents of back pain to the fact that our spine was originally designed for walking on all fours. Back then, the human spine comfortably arched like a bow to withstand the weight of our organs.
It was the perfect design until we learned to stand up, which basically forced the spine to act like a column. And now, after millennia of evolution, we’re still equipped with a spinal column that seems like it hasn’t fully adjusted to the demands of bipedal life.
Evolutionarily speaking, we seem to be trapped in a state of chronic back pain due to the very design of the human body.
But all is not lost. This same design problem has been studied by modern scientists and physical therapists for years.
And if human evolution has failed to provide relief for humanity’s back problems, perhaps human ingenuity has the answer.
Solving Back Pain Starts with Learning our “Primal Posture”
We’re not saying that you should start walking on all fours.
The primal posture is something that was ‘discovered’ by Esther Gokhale (pronounced “go-clay”), an acupuncturist and anthropological researcher who’s now made a name for herself as Silicon Valley’s ‘posture guru’.
Gokhale says that the problem isn’t in the design of our spine, but in how we use it.
After experiencing severe back pain herself and having to go under the knife for one too many times, Gokhale decided to take things into her own hands.
She studied places where back problems supposedly didn’t exist to see what she was doing differently(and whether the claims were true or not).
After studying anthropological findings on the postures of indigenous people across the world, Gokhale spent a decade travelling to places untouched by modern life.
In places where people spent 7 to 9 hours every day gathering water chestnuts, carrying buckets of water on their heads, weaving while sitting on the ground, and collecting firewood for their communities, she confirmed that back pain was virtually nonexistent.
And in these places, not only were the elderly still fully capable of performing strenuous tasks, as Gokhale observed, everyone carried themselves with a regal and distinct posture.
That’s how Esther Gokhale rediscovered the primal posture. The idea is to see your spine as a J instead of an S (with your head facing right).
- Instead of letting the upper spine curve down, it should be extended, as in the top of the letter J.
- Instead of tucking the buttocks in, as advised by too many modern personal trainers, the buttocks should be jutting out, to the point that it almost feels like it’s behind your body.
- The neck should be straight and the chin angled slightly downward.
- The shoulders should be loosely resting at your sides.
Those are just the basics. If you want more, Gokhale offers both free and paid classes on how to properly achieve and maintain the primal posture via her website.
In a nutshell, it’s the same posture you can see on ancient greek statues and elite-level athletes. If you can carry yourself like an MMA fighter, that’s already one step in the right direction.
Posture, as important as it is, is just the first part of the back problem puzzle.
Regular Exercise can Prevent Back Pain
It’s something you’ve probably already heard from your doctor: MOVE!
Regular exercise promotes the flow of joint fluid and keeps your body loose and ready for activity.
However, if you’re already suffering from some form of back pain, there are certain exercises that you should avoid.
Some exercises can be BAD FOR YOUR BACK and should be AVOIDED:
- Toe Touches
- Full Sit-ups
- Leg Lifts
There are of course also exercises that are GOOD FOR YOUR BACK:
- Partial Crunches
- Lie-down Hamstring Stretches
- Wall Sits
- Press-up Back Extensions
- Bird Dog
- Knee to Chest
- Pelvic Tilts
- Aerobic Exercise
Following the above exercises can strengthen the muscles that work with your lower back to keep you upright (core, gluteus, etc) without putting too much strain on the back itself.
If you live far from a gym and/or can’t afford yoga/pilates classes, a good alternative is jogging. Running on the reg is a good way to work out the entire body as well as keep your weight down, both of which will do wonders for your back.
As an added bonus for insomniacs, 150 minutes of weekly exercise has been shown to promote healthy and restful sleep, which is another concern when it comes to back problems.
We spend ⅓ of our lives in bed: that’s time you should be using to fix your bad back.
Proper Sleeping Posture and Body Support Can Reduce Back Pain
The key to attaining the correct sleeping posture is to use pillows of different sizes and rolled up towels/sheets to support your body.
Here’s how to properly sleep on your side:
- Make sure your head pillow lets your spine rest in a neutral and straight position.
- Pull your legs slightly upwards and put a large support pillow between your legs. This will reduce the strain on your lower back while sleeping in this position.
Here’s how to sleep on your back:
- Support your head with a pillow that allows your neck to remain straight and comfortable.
- Put a medium to large sized pillow under your knees.
- A small, rolled-up towel/bed sheet can be placed under the small of your back for added support.
Sleeping on your stomach is not really advised as it is bad for your back:
- It’s only beneficial in very particular cases, such as physical injuries or certain diseases/conditions. Otherwise, it’s simply bad for the lower back.
- If you must do it, put a pillow under your hips and lower abdomen.
- Using a massage bed would be the best way to sleep on your stomach without hurting your back.
The age and condition of your mattress could also factor into why your back feels sore every morning. Consider replacing your mattress if it’s over 10 years old.
Apart from posture and exercise, even your diet can affect how your back feels on a regular basis.
The Food You Eat Can Help Heal Your Back
The antioxidant Vitamin A helps not only in the formation of bone, but also tissue repair. You’ll find it in calf, beef, chicken liver, butter, milk, cheese, and eggs. You can also get it from carrots, spinach, apricots, nectarines, and cantaloupe.
Vitamin C is good for healing tendon, vertebral disc, and ligament injuries. Apart from oranges, you can get it from strawberries, guavas, grapefruits, kiwi, broccoli, spinach, potatoes, and red and green peppers.
These are just some of the vitamins and minerals that can do wonders for your back.
The key is to adopt a regular diet that promotes healing and bone/tissue repair.
Create a menu that consistently gives you a healthy amount of the necessary vitamins and minerals. Consult a nutritionist if necessary.
Watch Your Posture, Exercise Regularly, Support Your Body While Asleep, and Eat Right
Don’t just follow one tip. Do all four. Treating back pain can be a long and tiring road, but if you do it right, the painless nights and days are absolutely worth it.
Post written by Rienzi Mosqueda from OneBed.Com.Au.