With the incidence of back pain in the United States skyrocketing to 90%, we commonly blame our sedentary, seated lifestyle.
In my travels to regions of the world where back pain is rare, I consistently observe that people sit differently in those cultures. Potters, basket-weavers, and spinners in Burkina Faso, Ecuador, India, Thailand, and Brazil spend long hours sitting without pain.
Observe the women in the first picture, spinning cotton on the ground for long hours at a time. People in many cultures sit for long hours every day without experiencing any pain at all. I am convinced that it isn’t that we sit, but how we sit that causes our back problems. The women in the picture here simply align themselves better than we do.
Expensive Chairs Are Not the Answer
This gets to the root of another common posture myth—that good posture requires fancy ergonomic office furniture. A good chair can certainly be helpful, but the truth is that great posture can be achieved in almost any chair as long as you have a healthy foundation.
To illustrate this, observe the posture of the two women in the third picture. The difference in their alignment is caused by a difference in the position of the pelvis.
The woman on the left has a tucked pelvis - very common in American culture today. This pelvic position leads to either tense back muscles in an effort to “sit up straight” or, in this case, slumping. Both of these positions cause damage.
The woman on the right sits with an anteverted pelvis; you can see that her bottom is behind her. This position allows for a natural stacking of her vertebrae without muscle strain; her spinal discs and nerves are left decompressed. This simple change allows for a complete change in posture and the ability to sit for long hours without damage.
Keep this in mind the next time you seat yourself in your office chair. You will find that good posture is easier to maintain when you remember to leave your behind behind you. Pay attention to your alignment and you will be one step closer to a healthy back.
Esther Gokhale, L.Ac. is an expert in pain-free living and the Nautilus Gold Award-winning author of 8 Steps to a Pain Free Back. She's the creator of the Gokhale Method, an anthropologically-based approach to posture and alignment designed to eliminate and prevent back pain and other musculoskeletal problems. She's the founder of the Esther Gokhale Wellness Center in Palo Alto, CA. Visit her at egwellness.com