When it comes to the loss of a healthy spinal curve, this disrupts the biomechanics of the entire spine; the integrity of each natural curve is dependent upon the health of the others. Keep reading to learn more about the connection between the spine’s healthy curves and maintaining optimal spinal function.
The spine’s natural curves make it stronger, more flexible, and better able to absorb/distribute mechanical stress. The spine’s C-shaped curve at the neck and lower back are known as lordosis; when the spine’s natural lordosis becomes over-pronounced, it’s also known as lordosis or hyperlordosis.
Before getting to the specifics of lordosis, and excessive lordosis (hyperlordosis), let’s first explore some basic spinal anatomy.
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The spine has three main sections: cervical (neck), thoracic (middle/upper back), and lumbar (lower back).
In a healthy spine, the vertebrae (bones of the spine) are stacked on top of one another in a straight and neutral alignment, and as long as those vertebrae stay aligned, the spine’s natural curvatures are maintained.
The vertebrae are separated by intervertebral discs that perform many important roles in facilitating spinal function: providing cushioning between adjacent vertebrae, enabling flexible movement, providing the spine with structure (adjacent vertebrae attach to the disc in between), and acting as the spine’s shock absorbers.
Intervertebral disc issues are at the root of many spinal-condition causes, including lumbar lordosis.
When viewed from the front or back, healthy spines will appear straight, and when viewed from the side, it has a soft ‘S’ shape; that’s because of the spine’s healthy curves known as lordosis and kyphosis.
The spine’s inward curves that bend forward, towards the body’s center in a ‘C’ shape, are known as lordosis, while the curvatures that bends backward, away from the body’s center, in a reverse ‘C’ shape, are known as kyphosis.
The spine’s cervical and lumbar sections feature lordotic curves that bend inwards, while the thoracic spine (middle/upper back) bends outwards: a kyphotic curve.
Now, there is a normal and natural range of lordosis and kyphosis, but when a person’s degree of curvature falls beyond a normal range, problems can occur.
A normal range of lordosis in the cervical spine is between 20 and 35 degrees, and a range of lumbar lordosis would fall between 40 and 60 degrees; the spine’s thoracic kyphosis would fall in the range of 20 to 40 degrees.
In the medical world, the term lordosis is used interchangeably with hyperlordosis to refer to both a normal range, and excessive lordosis that falls beyond a healthy range as hyperlordosis.
While hyperlordosis can affect both the cervical and lumbar spinal sections, it most commonly involves the lumbar spine, so that’s the condition type we’ll focus on.
So if a person develops excessive lordosis in their lower back, what are some of the likely symptoms?
Lumbar Lordosis Symptoms
Symptoms of lordosis, aka hyperlordosis, will vary from person to person based on important variables such as patient age, severity, and the underlying cause.
Common symptoms can include lower back (lumbar lordosis) or neck (cervical lordosis) pain.
Additional symptoms of cervical lordosis include neck-muscle pain and shoulder pain from muscles being pulled in different directions; the muscles that surround the spine help it to stay aligned and maintain its natural curves and alignment.
A reduced range of motion in the affected area is also common, as are sore muscles as they struggle to support and stabilize a spine with an unnatural curvature.
For people with lumbar lordosis, lying with the back flat on the floor is impossible; regardless of position change, there will always be a gap between the lower back and the floor because of the excessive lordosis.
The condition is also referred to as swayback because of the postural changes it’s associated with: a protruding stomach and buttocks.
Additional symptoms can include:
If the hyperlordotic spinal curve is causing compression, it can impact surrounding nerves, producing a myriad of symptoms that can be felt in the lower back and throughout the lower body.
Common causes of lordosis include poor posture, obesity, leading a sedentary lifestyle, and the presence of other spinal conditions such as kyphosis (compensatory curves), discitis, and spondylolisthesis.
So once a diagnosis of lordosis is given, what can be done about it?
To effectively treat lordosis, a customized treatment plan has to be crafted around a condition’s underlying cause.
For the condition’s most-common cause, the cumulative effect of certain lifestyle choices, I would provide my patients with lifestyle guidance that addresses relevant postural issues.
When lordosis is caused by the presence of an underlying spinal condition, the spinal condition will be the guiding force of treatment.
Here at the Scoliosis Reduction Center, I approach treatment for a variety of spinal conditions by focusing on their underlying cause; otherwise, only symptoms of the condition are being addressed and not the condition itself.
The distinction between treating symptoms, or the condition itself, is an important one because in traditional general medicine, too often, prescription medications are handed out for a quick fix, and while these can bring short-term pain relief, they do little in terms of proactively addressing the pain’s underlying cause for long-term sustainable pain relief.
In addition, masking symptoms with pain medications can be dangerous because it can hide increasing condition severity and the need for treatment.
When lifestyle guidance is needed, as positive changes are made in terms of posture, weight, and exercise, we address the condition’s underlying cause, and related symptoms such as pain or postural changes are also addressed throughout the course of treatment.
A large part of addressing problematic lifestyle issues is introducing condition-specific exercises such as lumbar-stabilization exercises known to increase lumbar muscle strength, and muscle flexibility and reduce the load on the spine.
When lumbar lordosis is caused by kyphosis in another area of the spine, this is related to the development of compensatory curves. As the spine’s degree of kyphosis is problematic, it tries to counteract its effects by introducing a compensatory lordotic curve; while working towards restoring the spine’s natural kyphosis, the spine’s biomechanics are improved, in addition to any compensatory lordotic curves.
When an intervertebral disc issue such as discitis is the cause, the health and function of the discs have to be restored, and when successful, the spine becomes more stable as it’s realigned and disc health is improved.
When spondylolisthesis is the cause, restoring as much of the spine’s healthy curves and alignment through corrective bracing, condition-specific chiropractic adjustments, therapy, and rehabilitation can help reduce related lordosis.
Our approach at the Center is conservative, chiropractic-centered, and involves integrating multiple forms of treatment, so spinal conditions are impacted on multiple levels.
So can lordosis be straightened? Yes, it can, as long as treatment plans are customized around condition severity and causation.
When it comes to addressing what the best treatment for lordosis is, the answer will be case-specific based on patient age, condition severity, and the underlying cause of the excessive lumbar lordosis.
Commonly referred to as swayback, the exaggerated inward C-shaped curvature of the lumbar spine can cause the abdomen and buttocks to protrude excessively, giving the body a swayback appearance.
As the spine is such an important part of human anatomy, conditions that involve a loss of its healthy curves, such as lordosis, aka hyperlordosis, can cause a myriad of symptoms, particularly if left untreated.
When it comes to preserving spinal health and function, prevention by practicing a spine-friendly lifestyle, including maintaining a healthy weight and activity level, practicing good posture, and understanding the ergonomics of heavy lifting, can stave off the development of a number of spinal issues/conditions.
When it comes to lordosis that develops because of an underlying spinal condition such as kyphosis, discitis, or spondylolisthesis, the spinal condition that caused the lordosis needs to be treated proactively, so the related complication of excessive lumbar lordosis is addressed simultaneously.
Here at the Scoliosis Reduction Center, I integrate multiple treatment disciplines such as chiropractic care, in-office therapy, custom-prescribed home exercises, and corrective bracing to impact a variety of spinal conditions, lordosis included, on multiple levels.
If you, or someone you care about, are concerned with the possible development of an unnatural spinal curve, don’t hesitate to reach out for further guidance, support, and assessment.