The Spine

I was really intrigued by this NPR podcast and article: Lost Posture: Why Indigenous Cultures Don’t Have Back Pain. The article discusses the possible reasons why back pain is so prevalent in our culture and Ms. Gokhale, an acupuncturist in CA, began looking at cultures that apparently don’t have back pain. There were a few things that bothered me in this article that I wanted to address especially because I know how prevalent back pain is among my students and clients.

Ms. Gokhale looked at the spine and she compared the “s” shaped spine to other indigenous cultures with a “j” shaped spine. Bones respond to what is done to them (via muscles, gravity) over time. But I am also noticing some other things in the pictures provided in the article: 1) notice the location of the rib case and 2) the prominent gluteal muscles (that’s your butt muscles!) Clearly these are cultures who probably also still squat, thus the muscular definition of the gluteals. Also, in order to properly balance anything on your head you would probably need to have your ribs in their proper place, which would mean a bit more tone and definition in the abdominals.

I definitely agree with the Western sedentary culture mentioned but I don’t agree that it’s only about “beefing up the abdominal muscles” as a solution. Again, I firmly support a wholistic view of the body, everything, not only, in our bodies and our minds, is interconnected. So to just state, they have strong abdominal muscles seems a bit absurd. What about what these cultures do all day or at least the people presented in the pictures? They probably walk, squat, carry, lift, push, etc, which would definitely have an influence on the body structure and musculature.

If you were carrying something on your head, if you had your ribs thrusted forward something else would need to compensate or else the basket would fall off your head. Also, you would be working against gravity, lengthening your spine to support the weight of the basket on your head.

Clearly the word is out and we are becoming more informed on how the body functions overall. Overall spine health is important. The vertebrae that make up the spine and the discs don’t need to be twisted into unnecessary positions. But most of us don’t know that the pain we have or might eventually have is due to our habits now.

Ok, I think I am done my short rant on the spine. In short, I don’t think trying to undo an “s” shaped spine is the solution. Again, I advocate whole body movements over time.

Posting post post
Low and Behold – there is this response o the article:
A Cross Cultural Look at Postures on eHRAF

Maybe we have actually come full circle because I know from my work with The Thinking Body and Barbara Clark and my lecturing for Dance Culture and Global Contexts for many years that there was a huge interest in other cultures starting as early as late 1800’s with the “Father of Modern Anthropology”, Franz Boas. I suppose as soon as Europeans began to travel and to discover populations that looked dissimilar from themselves! Which would put this interest even before Boas!


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