Lordosis is the term doctors use to describe an excessive lordotic, or inward-curving, spinal curvature. Lordosis of the lumbar spine can be a source of low back pain.
What Is Lordosis?
A certain degree of curvature is normal in the human spine. When you look at your body from the side, you can see the gentle inward and outward curves of the neck, upper back and lower back, which are necessary for keeping the body properly aligned over the pelvis.
- The neck has a lordotic curve, meaning that it curves inward.
- The thoracic spine has a kyphotic curve, meaning it curves outward.
- The lumbar spine also has a lordotic curve.
These curves help the spine to support the load of the head and upper body, and maintain balance. Excessive curvature, however, may result in spinal imbalance. When the spine curves too far inward, this is called lordosis, or swayback.
What Causes Lordosis?
Lordosis can develop at any age. Certain conditions can contribute to the excessive inward curvature of the spine, including osteoporosis (bone thinning/weakening), obesity, discitis (infection of vertebral disc space), neuromuscular disorders, kyphosis (excessive outward spinal curvature), spondylolisthesis (slippage of one vertebra over another), hip dysplasia (misalignment), and achondroplasia (dwarfism). Lordosis also can be the result of poor posture.
What Are The Symptoms Of Lordosis?
The most notable outward sign of lordosis is a prominence of the buttocks and an exaggerated "swayback" appearance of the lower back, or lumbar spine. The condition also may cause increased strain on the lower back muscles, resulting in low back pain. If the spinal curve is significant, normal range of motion can be affected.
Symptoms also can vary depending on whether the curvature is associated with an underlying medical condition, such as those above. Pain that radiates into the extremities and altered bowel/bladder function typically are not associated with lordosis.
How Is Lordosis Diagnosed?
To confirm a diagnosis of lordosis, your doctor may, in addition taking your medical history and performing a physical exam, recommend a diagnostic test such as an x-ray, computed tomography (CT) scan or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
How Is Lordosis Treated?
Nonsurgical therapies for treating lordosis include:
- Analgesics and anti-inflammatory medication.
- Physical therapy to increase strength, flexibility, and range of motion in the lower back.
- Bracing, particularly to control curve progression in adolescents.
- Reduction of excess weight.
Surgical intervention may be considered if the curve is severe, there is evidence of nerve/spinal cord involvement, and/or if nonsurgical therapies have failed to provide relief after a reasonable length of time.
Discuss your condition thoroughly with your doctor, and rely on his or her judgment regarding the type of treatment that is most appropriate.