The spine is a complex body structure made up of bones, ligaments, facets, and intervertebral discs. It serves essential bodily functions such as support, enabling movement, and giving the body structure. Any condition that affects any of its parts or interferes with its normal alignment can bring about spinal issues. Hyperlordosis is one of the conditions that can affect the spine’s alignment. It may seem like a very complex condition but, we will break it down for you below.
The spine and its natural curvatures
The spine is naturally curved. The curved nature gives it added strength, flexibility, and the ability to distribute mechanical stress evenly when you move. The overall health and function of the spine depend on its healthy curvatures. Hyperlordosis is the excessive curvature of the spine, particularly on the lower back. It is also called saddleback or swayback.
If you look at a healthy spine from the side, you should see an ‘S’-like shape. The spine has three main sections and three corresponding principal curvatures that individually characterize each area;
- The cervical spine is composed of the upper back and the neck. It is a ‘C’ shaped curve and bends inward into the center of the body.
- The thoracic spine is the middle back, and it has a reversed ‘C’ curve that bends outward from the center of the body.
- The lumbar spine is composed of the lower back, and it also has a ‘C’ shaped curve, similar to that of the cervical spine.
If the spine loses one of its curvatures, you can feel the effects throughout the spine. The curves that bend inwards in a characteristic ‘C’ shape are referred to as “lordosis.” In contrast, the curvature that bends outward like a reversed ‘C’ shape is referred to as “kyphosis.” An over-pronounced inverted C-shape curve is known as hyperkyphosis, while an over-pronounced C-shape curve is the hyperlordosis. When one develops the latter, the biometrics of the spine can be thrown off. It can occur at any age, but it rarely occurs in children.
You can check for excessive curvature by;
Standing against a wall with a straight back and having the legs shoulder-width apart. Your head, the blades of your shoulders, and buttocks should also be against the wall. Follow by placing one hand behind the lower spine and between the wall. If the space left can allow for more than one hand, you have an exaggerated curvature.
Various factors can cause or contribute to the development of an exaggerated spinal curvature. They may include;
1. Poor posture
Improper posture affects the body in several ways. This is because the spine helps us maintain an upright and straight posture. You would see why a chronic poor posture can cause spinal issues. A person who spends a lot of time seated, especially without the shoulders back and the back straight, the muscles close and joined to the lumbar spine may become excessively tight in their attempt to stabilize and support the spine. With time, this can result in the spine being thrown out of alignment and cause this excess inward curvature.
Suggested article: 9 Exercises to Improve Posture (With Pictures)
2. Obesity and being overweight
If you are obese or overweight, you carry excess fat in the abdominal areas and the buttocks. These stress and strain the lumbar spine and the muscles that support and stabilize it. The added strain can cause one’s lumbar spine to bend in an unnatural way to cause exaggerated lordosis.
3. Leading a sedentary lifestyle
The spine’s design is to help with movement. Therefore, leading a sedentary lifestyle that lacks exercise is technically contrary to the overall structure and function of the spine. Additionally, lack of exercise can contribute to being overweight and developing obesity making the risk even more significant. It also weakens the core muscles surrounding the trunk and pelvis.
Due to lack of use, weakened core muscles are less capable of offering enough support and stabilizing the spinal column. As a result, this makes the lumbar spine more vulnerable to excessive curvature.
4. Underlying spinal problems
There are times one’s lumbar hyperlordosis is due to underlying spinal conditions. Being an essential part of the human anatomy, the spine is prone to developing several conditions. The spine is very complex, and if a spinal condition develops, it may affect more than one spinal area mainly because the curvatures depend on each other. Some of the common conditions associated with this excess curvature are discitis, kyphosis, and spondylolisthesis.
- Discitis is a disease that can be brought about by an infection of the intervertebral discs, either viral or bacterial. Intervertebral discs are existent between the vertebrae (the spine bones). They offer protection, cushioning, and act as shock absorbers for the spine. If they get infected, their overall health is compromised, and so does that of the entire spine. Unhealthy discs also compromise the structure and support of the spine. This can make it more vulnerable to getting misaligned and developing an abnormal curvature.
- Kyphosis– If the thoracic spine has an exaggerated curvature toward the outside (excessive kyphosis), it can throw the spine out of alignment to cause a counteractive curvature like exaggerated lordosis. If the spine loses one or more of its curvatures, the body will usually respond by developing bad curves. One abnormally-shaped curvature can result in the loss of another healthier curvature. This is because the unnatural curve replaces the healthy curvature.
- Spondylolisthesis– This is a spinal condition that affects the lower spine. It causes a vertebra of the lumbar spine to slip forward onto the one below. Once the two begin to rub against each other, the added pressure erodes the affected bone(s) and disc(s). This makes the spine unstable and more likely to get misaligned.
- Achondroplasia or dwarfism.
- A spinal injury.
- Prior back surgery.
- Hip disorders such as dislocation.
- Problems that cause bone weakness like osteoporosis.
- Wearing high-heeled shoes for very long periods.
Symptoms and other risks
- The condition is characterized by an excessive inward curvature along the lumbar spine. Since the inward curvature gets more pronounced, other lower body parts like the stomach and the buttocks are affected and appear in a more prominent profile view. The belly protrudes, and the buttocks are pushed outwards.
- With the condition, one may feel pain in the lower back.
- It can also result in tightening of the lower back muscles or stiffness.
- You can also suffer from limited movement.
It is important to beware that for spinal conditions, the symptoms vary and are of different degrees from one person to another. Age and one’s spinal flexibility are some of the variables that play significant roles in determining how the patients experience the symptoms and to what degree. The degree of severity also plays a role in determining how noticeable any postural changes are.
With a mild curvature, the spine may remain relatively flexible, which makes it less likely to result in pain or limited movement. On the other hand, exaggerated curvature causes a higher likelihood of adverse symptoms. For example, it can damage the soft tissues within the lumbar region of the spine.
Some studies have shown that people with abnormal spine curvature can be prone to degenerative joint disease or osteoarthritis.
Additional to the simple test to determine excessive curvature of the lower spine, a doctor can intervene. They can perform an X-ray to determine if the curvature is more rigid than flexible or how much your spine curves. They can also use an MRI or CT scan to view spine images or if they think an abnormality in the lumbar spinal tissues is responsible. Additionally, they may look for other nervous system problems or muscle issues to see if they contribute to the condition.
The underlying cause of the condition primarily determines the approach used for treatment. For the most prevalent causes, treatment will address the relevant lifestyle and postural issues. If an underlying spinal condition causes the curvature, the contributing situation is primarily addressed.
Generally speaking, treatment does not mainly focus on the symptoms like in traditional general medicine. The condition causing the excessive curvature is proactively addressed to alleviate and lessen the symptoms permanently. Integrative approaches customize treatment plans through the combination of several methods that address specific patient characteristics and their condition. They are effective for long-term treatment.
With medication, there is always a likelihood of masking the leading cause. However, a doctor may prescribe pain relievers or anti-inflammatory drugs for painful curvature symptoms.
Whereby the condition is caused by poor posture, the patient is advised about how to correct the improper posture, for example, by occasionally refreshing their posture. Addressing postural changes as a way of treatment will lessen the symptoms, including pain. A doctor may recommend a back brace to align the spine.
If obesity, being overweight, or a sedentary lifestyle are the causes, patients will be guided on the best and most effective hyperlordosis exercises. They may include activities to stabilize the lumbar spine, improve the strength of the lumbar muscles, overall flexibility, and those that may reduce the load put on the spine. For obese patients, the doctor may devise a weight loss program.
Underlying spinal issue
If an underlying spinal issue causes the condition, treatment will be more focused on the underlying condition. The state will guide and determine the treatment; Spondylolisthesis can be treated using corrective bracing, therapy, rehabilitation, and specific chiropractic adjustments. If infected intervertebral discs cause the curvature, their health must be restored first, which gradually improves the misalignment. Whereby kyphosis causes the excess curvature, professionals will work toward the restoration of the abnormal curvature. Eventually, this improves the biomechanics of the spine and any other counteractive curvatures on the lower or even upper spine.
Spine specialists may do surgery for those with severe symptoms and whose condition does not improve with other treatments. The main goal is to realign the spine by correcting the curve. During the surgery, screws, hooks, and metal rods are used.
The best medicine is always prevention, where possible. Being generally aware and having the knowledge about how certain factors can result in excessive inward curvature of the spine is invaluable and essential. It can aid in lowering the likelihood of developing the condition.
- Since the spine’s overall design is about helping with movement, living a contrasting life can adversely affect spinal health. When it comes to preventing lumbar hyperlordosis, it is crucial to consider the leading and common causes- improper posture, being obese, and the lack of exercise. These are choices that one can make differently. Carrying out exercises that engage the core can help keep spine supporting muscles working optimally. They will keep the spine stable and supported adequately.
- When excessive curvature is due to an underlying spinal issue, the ability to prevent it or not is dependent on the nature of the more dominant condition.
- When it comes to preserving spinal health and staving off degenerative effects that can come about with aging, choosing to stay mobile and active are usually the best measures for prevention. You can ultimately keep the muscles that surround the spine loose and flexible.
- Since the intervertebral discs do not have a vascular supply of fluid, they can only replenish and maintain it by movement. Therefore, being active and staying active is good for them. Constantly hydrating can also help in disc preservation.
While the spine’s nature is to have curvatures, it can suffer an over-pronounced curvature- hyperlordosis. It mainly affects the lumbar spine, whereby the area’s natural ‘C’ shape becomes exaggerated. As soon as you notice an abnormal or excessive spine curvature, you must seek medical help.
Depending on how severe the condition is and its cause, symptoms may include pain, changes in posture, and limited movement. Most causes are treatable, can be improved, and one can eventually regain the desired spine curvature. Furthermore, the more common causes of the condition can be addressed and are also preventable.
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