Spotting the Symptoms of Lordosis
Spotting the Symptoms of Lordosis
Some people believe that the spinal column is pretty much a straight rod. After all, as a kid, how many times did you hear the command “Stand up straight!” by a concerned relative? However, the spinal column actually consists of natural curves that are necessary for supporting the body. Sometimes, however, these curves can become excessive. This is the case with lordosis—an excessive inward curve of the lumbar spine.
So what exactly is lordosis and how can you tell if you have it?
Let’s take a closer look at the spine to achieve a better understanding of this type of spinal deformity.
Your Spine and Its Curves
The spine, or backbone, is a series of bones that run from the base of your skull to your pelvis. There are three natural curves that actually give your spine it’s “S” shape (when viewed from the side of the body.)
The spinal column consists of 33 bones known as vertebrae. They are divided into five regions:
- Cervical spine: Seven vertebrae in the neck
- Thoracic spine: Twelve vertebrae in the upper back
- Lumbar spine: Five vertebrae in the lower back
- Sacral region: Five fused vertebrae in the pelvic area
- Coccygeal region: Four fused bones that make up the tailbone
The spinal column, of course, is more than just vertebrae. In fact, in between many of the vertebrae lie round, rubbery pads known as intervertebral discs. These discs function to absorb the shock as you go about your everyday movements. They consist of a tough outer layer and a soft, gel-like center.
Additionally, soft tissues also play a major role in spinal structure. For instance, connective tissues known as tendons attach your muscles to the spine. Muscles, as you already know, assist with movement and maintaining posture. And, ligaments attach bones to other bones to reinforce the joints.
Moreover, your spine protects your spinal cord. This large bundle of nerves functions as the communication center between your brain and the rest of your body. As such, nerve roots branch out from the spinal cord to reach all other areas of the body. They exit the spinal column through small holes known as foramina.
Why does the spine have curves?
Everyday movements apply a great deal of stress on the body. These curves help to absorb the force by evenly distributing your body weight.
Normal Spinal Curves
Spinal curves are identified in two ways: lordotic (a backward C-shape) or kyphotic (a regular C-shape). Here is where you can find them:
- Cervical spine: The neck area contains a slight lordotic (inward) curve.
- Thoracic spine: The upper back contains a gentle kyphotic (outward) curve.
- Lumbar spine: The lower back contains a gradual lordotic (inward) curve.
When any of these curves become excessive, the conditions are known as (hyper)lordosis or (hyper)kyphosis occur. In addition, if the spine curves excessively to the left or right (when viewed from the back of the body), an individual is said to have scoliosis.
How Do I Know if I Have Lordosis?
Since the spine has normal curves, how can you tell if your curvature is excessive?
Lordosis usually affects the lumbar spine (or lower back). It can, however, occur in the cervical (neck) area. Furthermore, both children and adults alike can suffer from this condition.
Symptoms of Lumbar Lordosis
- A large C-shape in the lower back, causing the buttocks to protrude outward
- A noticeable gap between the lower back and the floor when lying flat
- Muscle pain and discomfort in the lower back
- Difficulty moving in certain ways
- Muscle spasms
- Temporary loss of bladder control
Symptoms of Cervical Lordosis
- Neck stiffness
- Numbness or tingling in neck or extremities
- Dizziness or nausea
- Insomnia or fatigue
- Limited movement in the neck
What Causes Lordosis?
There are many reasons why you may be experiencing lordosis. For example, certain lifestyle and personal habits may contribute to an excessive curve in the spine. Likewise, hereditary traits may also play a factor. And, for some, disease and trauma may cause structural changes in the spine.
Let’s take a look at a few of the common causes of lordosis.
Being mindful of your posture is crucial to your spine’s health. Hunched shoulders, maintaining your neck in a forward position, and an uneven pelvis all may lead to back issues and lordosis.
Lifting Heavy Objects the Wrong Way
Ever hear the phrase, “Lift with your legs, not your back?” It’s sound advice. Improper lifting habits can place strain on the back leading to muscle, spine, and other physiological issues. As overstressed muscles continue to tighten, it can lead to less flexibility, poor posture, and pain. Tight muscles may also pull at your spine, affecting its structure.
Excess weight, especially in the midsection, may cause people to lean backward to help with their balance. After all, obesity affects the body’s normal line of gravity, placing additional stress on the spine, back, and pelvis.
As bones age, they may lose their density. This causes the bones to become thin and brittle. As a result, the bones in the spine lose some strength and may become unstable. This can also affect the discs that protect your vertebrae. In time, the spine’s structure deteriorates, causing slipped discs or other painful orthopedic conditions.
Inflammation to the intervertebral discs may trigger the onset of lordosis. Specifically, discitis is caused by an infection of the discs, usually from bacteria introduced to other parts of the body. It most commonly occurs following surgery or trauma.
An excessive curve in the thoracic spine—known as kyphosis—can make the lower back work harder to compensate for the imbalance. This added pressure can cause hyperlordosis to develop in the lower back.
Fractures or defects in parts of a vertebra may cause it to slip forward or backward over the vertebra beneath. As a result, you may deal with significant pain and sudden changes to your spine’s normal curvature.
Lordosis in Children
Certain inherited conditions can cause lordosis in children. These disorders include muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy, myelomeningocele, or arthrogryposis—to name a few.
As mentioned above, those who carry extra weight in their abdominal area may be more prone to develop lordosis. Usually, pregnancy-induced lordosis is just a temporary condition as your body adjusts to its new center of gravity. After you give birth, any pain or abnormal curvature is likely to resolve itself.
What Can You Do to Prevent Lumbar Lordosis?
Looking for ways to prevent back pain and excessive curvature in your lower back? Oftentimes, prevention can be the difference between living a life you truly enjoy or suffering from chronic pain.
Here are some ways to prevent lordosis in the lower back:
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Routinely perform lumbar lordosis exercises prescribed by your doctor, physical therapist, or trainer
- Use proper form and posture while exercising or performing any physical activity
- Maintain a limber back with exercises like yoga
- Be mindful of your posture while sitting, standing, or walking.
Many of these same principles apply to maintaining a healthy cervical spine as well. For example, paying attention to posture while using computers, laptops, and mobile devices may play a big role in preventing excessive strain on the cervical spine.
Do You Need to See a Doctor for Lordosis?
Many people go about their daily lives with mild forms of lordosis. They may experience pain or discomfort from time to time, but rest, over-the-counter medications, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle alleviate their symptoms.
More extreme cases of lordosis, however, may require the intervention of a doctor or other specialists. This is especially true if you are suffering from neurological symptoms like numbness, tingling, muscle weakness, or significant pain.
If you are starting to notice increased symptoms due to lordosis, it’s best to err on the side of caution. Talk to your doctor about lifestyle changes you can implement to keep your spine healthy. Or, even better yet, consult with a physical therapist to develop a plan that includes strengthening exercises and better posture habits.
Do You Need Surgery for Lordosis?
Most people dealing with lordosis do not need surgery. In fact, it is often considered a last resort after other lordosis treatments have failed.
When is lordosis surgery necessary?
If your spine becomes unstable because of slipped vertebrae (i.e. spondylolisthesis) or disc degeneration, surgery may be an option. This is especially true if you’re suffering from severe neurological symptoms like muscle weakness, pain, or loss of function.
While the exact surgery needed depends on your individual condition, there are a couple of surgeries that commonly help improve spinal stability. These include:
- Spinal fusion. Removing a damaged disc and replacing it with a bone graft and other hardware. In time, the two bones of the vertebrae fuse together as one. A fusion surgery helps to restore spinal stability.
- Artificial disc replacement. Replacing all or part of a damaged disc with an artificial one. This not only makes the spine more stable, but it may also give you more flexibility compared to spinal fusion surgery.
The decision to undergo lordosis surgery depends on your condition, treatment goals, and input from a specially trained doctor and/or team of orthopedic professionals.
Getting Help for Your Spinal Deformities
A healthy spine protects your spinal cord and supports your body. When deformities occur, it can affect just about every area of your life.
There are plenty of orthopedic doctors out there. But wouldn’t you like the peace of mind knowing you can connect with an award-winning doctor who specializes in spinal deformities?
Dr. Jason E. Lowenstein is a board-certified, fellowship-trained scoliosis and spinal deformity surgeon. His dedication, compassion, and expertise in the most advanced spinal care options set him apart from other surgeons. In fact, he has received Top Doctor awards from several sources including New Jersey Monthly Magazine and Inside Jersey Magazine.
Ready to get started right now? Why not answer a few questions to determine the severity of your condition and various treatment options. Or simply call (855) 220-5966 today to schedule a consultation.