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This article is republished with permission from our friends at Higher Perspective.

Most people will experience back pain in their lives, and about half of working Americans experience back pain every year. A third of Americans older than 55 have chronic back or neck pain. it’s a real problem in modern society – one I’ve grappled with as well.

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Yet somehow, back pain is rare among indigenous cultures – people we picture as having hard, strenuous lives compared to ours.

Esther Gokhale, an acupuncturist who practices in Palo Alto, California, thinks she’s found the reason why. She was compelled to study indigenous people to understand why it is that modern living caused back pain and indigenous living didn’t.

So she traveled to some of the most remote locations on Earth to find an answer.

The biggest difference she saw was in how these people walked, sat, and stood.

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“I have a picture in my book of these two women who spend seven to nine hours every day, bent over, gathering water chestnuts,” Gokhale told npr.org. “They’re quite old. But the truth is they don’t have a back pain.”

She even found that their spines were differently shaped. Instead of having S-shaped spines like adults often do, they had J-shaped spines.

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“The J-shaped spine is what you see in Greek statues. It’s what you see in young children. It’s good design,” Gokhale said.

So Gohkale decided to try and get her spine into that J shape. It took work, but she finally did it and her back pain disappeared. It wasn’t easy. But why do we have differently shaped backs? Dr. Praveen Mummaneni from the University of California thinks it’s how we live.

“I think the sedentary lifestyle promotes a lack of muscle tone and a lack of postural stability because the muscles get weak,” says Dr. Mummaneni. “You’re not going to be able to go from the S- to the J-shaped spine without having good core muscle strength. And I think that’s key here.”

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