3 Simple Shifts to Soothe Back Pain

Many Americans suffer from back issues at some point in their lives, yet such conditions are almost unknown in indigenous cultures. The amount of time we spend sitting has been identified as a differentiating factor, but Esther Gokhale, LAc, says its actually how we sit and move, overall thats contributing to our back problems.

After experiencing severe back pain and failed surgery, Gokhale studied posture in places such as Brazil and India. What she learned inspired the Gokhale Method, which she outlines in her book, 8 Steps to a Pain-Free Back.

To improve your posture and ease or prevent back pain, Gokhale recommends lengthening, strengthening, and remodeling the spine.

I believe the most natural playground to make these changes is in everyday movements sitting, lying, standing, bending, lifting, and walking provide ample opportunity to stretch, strengthen, and reshape the body, she says.

Modifying the way you move and how you position yourself when you dont can temper and even prevent back pain. Gokhale suggests practicing these subtle moves.

Roll open your shoulders: Gently move one shoulder a little forward, a little up, and a lot back, and then let it relax down. Repeat the movement with your other shoulder. After youve rolled both shoulders, your arms should dangle by your sides, externally rotated and farther back than usual. This will shift the soft tissue of your shoulder, improving your breathing as well as the circulation in your arms and back.

Alternate between stretchsitting and stacksitting: Stretchsitting relaxes the shoulders while using gentle traction to lengthen and decompress the spine. To stretchsit, place a folded towel or cushion (1-inch depth) vertically against a chair backrest between your waist and shoulder blades. Hitch your midback onto it to get a little traction. Roll open your shoulders.

Stacksitting describes an upright, relaxed, seated position with a well-positioned pelvis and stacked back. To encourage stacksitting, place a folded towel or cushion toward the back half of a chairs seat and sit on the chairs front edge.

Lengthen your spine: Take a deep breath and grow tall. Maintain the height as you exhale, and repeat. Grow even taller on the next inhale, maintaining the new height during the exhale.