Gokhale's method for back pain requires no surgery

November 23, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
Chances are you've experienced it -- back pain affects 90 percent of us at one time or other. You may have tried anti-inflammatories, physical therapy or maybe even surgery, but there's really no quick fix for dealing with it. Now there is a different method, and those who've tried it, swear by it.

"It's about relaxing and letting all the bones just live where they were meant to be, your kind of primal architecture," says Esther Gokhale.

Learning to reclaim that primal architecture is what Gokhale teaches her clients.

"You develop your passions from your own difficulties," says Gokhale.

Gokhale herself had back surgery for a herniated disc in her 20s, with mediocre results.

"I started studying the medical literature and what it all pointed to was that there are populations that don't have the kind of back problems we do," says Gokhale.

That research led her to create "8 Steps To a Pain Free Back," including what she calls "stretch sitting."

"The basic idea is as you sit, you could be enjoying a gentle traction in your spine," says Gokhale.

Another technique is "stack sitting." "You're placing your sit bones on the edge of the chair," says Gokhale, "and now you are stacking and you are completely relaxed."

"Glide walking" is another strategy. Together the techniques offer a toolbox of sorts for clients like Alison Cline. For her, these simple posture adjustments have resolved decades of back troubles and migraines.

"It sort of resets everything and then the pain's gone," says Cline.

"I had been taking 2,400 mg of Motrin for almost 20 years... a day," says Rob Henderson.

Henderson's athletic career at Cal ended with back surgery at 19, and he never fully recovered.

"So fast forward 20 years, I couldn't even walk, carry my kids. It got to the point where I couldn't get out of bed," says Henderson.

For him, learning the Gohkale Method through six classes like this one was life changing. The "stretchy lying" technique is something he spends a few minutes doing every night before going to sleep.

"And what I notice is I fall asleep faster, I sleep better, and I wake up in the morning without any pain," says Henderson.

"It works. I mean that's the thing. I mean it's simple and its things you do in the course of your everyday living," says Deirdre Stegman, MD.

Both Cline and Henderson are patients of Stegman -- an internist with the Palo Alto Medical Foundation who has referred more than 100 patients to Gokhale, including herself.

"My patients would say to me, 'You look so much younger' and I say 'I think it's because of the posture,'" says Stegman.

"It is so simple; it is empowering to the patients," says Haleh Agdassi, MD.

Agdassi is a physiatrist, specializing in non-surgical treatments for back pain.

"I have to educate my patients that unfortunately there's no quick fix, but her method is honestly the closest thing that I have found that gets the patients to fixing their problem," says Agdassi.

"I realized the other day, I didn't even own Advil," says Henderson.

With no pain meds and no pain, Henderson calls Gokhale's course the best investment he's ever made for his health.

Agdassi plans to start a clinical trial next year comparing the Gokhale Method to the standard of care for back pain, such as physical therapy or medications. She'll look at pain reduction, referrals to surgery and overall cost for the two groups of randomized patients.


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