Is poor posture to blame for your pain?

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pharaohs sitting

What if someone told you that making a few relatively simple changes to things you do every day sitting, standing, walking, even sleeping could relieve or extinguish pain, or prevent it altogether? And making these changes would be a matter of relearning something, so wouldn’t entail lots of time, effort, or money. Sounds pretty good, right?

The pretty accurately describes the Gokhale Method, “a systematic process of restoring pain-free posture and movement,” which Esther Gokhale practices in her Palo Alto, Calif., center. Gokhale (pronounced GO-CLAY), a licensed acupuncturist, once experienced debilitating back and sciatic pain that even surgery failed to help.

Searching for a better way, she studied a variety of methods and techniques, including the Alexander Technique and the work of the Aplomb Institute. From her research, review of the medical literature, and work with clients in her acupuncture practice, Gokhale developed her method. In addition to teaching workshops around world, she has written 8 Steps to a Pain-Free Back. She was recently profiled in The New York Times.

Pain Resource recently spoke to Gokhale to learn more about how the method, which focuses on adjusting posture to ease pain and improve overall health and well-being, and how it might help chronic-pain patients. Here’s an excerpt of our interview:

3448-014Pain Resource:  “Primal Posture” is at the heart of your method namely that if we could regain a healthy posture that we were all born with we could ease or avoid pain. Can you explain?

Esther Gokhale: It’s the posture that you find in our hunter-gatherer ancestors or even our great-great-grandparents, that we all shared when we were 2 and that people in nonindustrial cultures still retain. The architecture of the body that I claim is natural is pain-free, highly functional, and beautiful.

Primal posture is a J-spine rather an S- or C-shaped spine. [Your] behind is definitely behind [you]; the upper lumbar area [of the back] is lengthened rather than very curved, and the bones [of the spine] stack well so that the muscles are relatively relaxed and there is strength and ease and flow in the body. The circulation is unencumbered by tension, and it’s like human beings reach their full potential with this kind of architecture.

3448-087PR: How did you discover this?

EG: The hard way: I had back pain severe sciatic pain that wouldn’t respond to any of a plethora of conservative and alternative measures that I tried, so I had to cast a very wide net to find a solution. I was also a practicing acupuncturist, so I was seeing other people with pain and I had begun to wonder why human beings were so poorly designed and kept falling apart. The conclusion I came to is that we’re extremely well-designed creatures. The problem is that we were born without a user’s manual and the culture doesn’t support us very well. It’s an ongoing process; I’m still evolving my process, and it gets richer over the years.

PR: What have we forgotten about movement that we knew as infants and young children?

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