Lordosis Explained

Medically Reviewed By Angela M. Bell, MD, FACP
Was this helpful?
0

Lordosis occurs when the curve of your spine arches too far inward. Some common causes of lordosis include injury, osteoporosis, and a high body mass index (BMI).

Most cases of lordosis are painless. However, some cases are severe and can cause extreme back pain, numbness, and weakness.

Doctors usually diagnose the condition with a physical exam. Sometimes, they may also perform an imaging test.

Continue reading to understand how lordosis affects the body and how doctors treat it.

What is lordosis? 

Female's bare back
Guille Faingold/Stocksy United

Lordosis, or swayback, describes an excessive inward curve of the spine. It typically occurs at the neck or lower back.

Typically, your spine curves slightly at the neck, torso, and lower back. This curvature enables the spine to absorb shock, support the weight of your head, and keep your body aligned properly. 

However, when lordosis occurs, the curvature becomes more extreme and puts pressure on the spine. It may also make the stomach or buttocks look more prominent.

In some people, lordosis corrects itself temporarily when they lean forward. If it does, you may not need treatment. If it does not, treatment may be necessary.

What are the types of lordosis?

There are many types of lordosis. They include:

  • Postural lordosis: This results from poor posture and a lack of muscle conditioning. It typically occurs in people who are overweight.
  • Congenital lordosis: This develops in people with congenital disorders. Congenital disorders are conditions that cause structural or functional problems in newborns. Examples include achondroplasia and arthrogryposis.
  • Traumatic lordosis: This occurs when one or more of the spinal joints break due to trauma or injury. It is usually associated with contact sports and accidents.
  • Post-surgical lordosis: This is when a back surgery, such as laminectomy, makes the spine unstable. It is common in children with spinal cord tumors.
  • Neuromuscular lordosis: This occurs with disorders that affect movement and muscle tone. Examples include muscular dystrophy and cerebral palsy.
  • Lumbar lordosis: This refers to lordosis of the lower back. It results from a muscular imbalance around the pelvic bones.
  • Cervical lordosis: This occurs when lordosis occurs in the neck region. It can have a variety of causes, including injuries and poor posture.

Lordosis vs. kyphosis

Kyphosis is another spinal condition that affects natural curvature. It shares many similarities with lordosis, but it is a distinct condition.

Kyphosis only affects the upper back, but lordosis can affect the neck and lower back. 

Also, kyphosis gives the upper back a pitched-forward, rounded appearance, whereas lordosis can make the stomach or buttocks look more prominent.

Read about six ways to improve your posture here.

What are the symptoms of lordosis?

In many cases, lordosis causes no symptoms besides the exaggerated inward curve. In severe cases, however, it may cause severe back or neck pain as well as:

  • pain that radiates down the legs (sciatica
  • numbness
  • tingling
  • a loss of bladder or bowel control
  • limited movement
  • weakness

Contact your doctor if you have painful or persistent symptoms of lordosis.

Checking for lordosis 

You can self-diagnose lordosis with a simple test. To perform this test:

  1. Find a flat surface and lie on your back.
  2. Check if there is a space between your lower back and the surface.
  3. Check if there is a space between the curve of your neck and the surface.

If there is a lot of space between your neck or back and the surface, you may have lordosis.

If you believe that you may have lordosis, you may wish to seek a second opinion from your doctor.

What are the other causes and risk factors for lordosis?

Lordosis can result from several different factors. Many of these factors relate to bone and muscle problems. They include:

  • Osteosarcoma: This is a type of bone cancer that typically develops in the bones around the knee. It can cause joint pain, bone injury, and swelling.
  • Osteoporosis: This is a condition that makes the bones weak and brittle. It can lead to back pain, a stooped posture, and bone fracture.
  • Spondylolisthesis: This is when one of your vertebrae slips out of place. Common symptoms include thigh pain, stiffness, and persistent back pain.
  • Myelomeningocele: This is the most serious type of spina bifida. Spina bifida occurs when a baby’s spine or spinal cord does not close properly. It presents as a fluid filled cyst within the spinal cord. 

How does a doctor diagnose lordosis?

To determine whether or not you have lordosis, your doctor may ask questions related to your symptoms, such as:

  • When did you first notice an exaggerated curve in your back?
  • Is your curve arching further?
  • Are you feeling pain

Your doctor will also conduct a physical exam to determine the alignment of your spine. During the exam, you will bend forward and to the side so that your doctor can analyze the flexibility of your spinal curve.

To confirm the diagnosis, your doctor will order some imaging tests, such as an X-ray, MRI, or CT scan.

Visit our hub to read more about bones, joints, and muscles.

What are the treatments for lordosis?

Lordosis does not require treatment unless the symptoms are severe.

Treatments for severe lordosis include:

  • Daily exercises: These can strengthen the muscles and help with weight management.
  • Physical therapy: This may improve flexibility and range of motion. 
  • Braces: These may improve posture and prevent the curve from arching further. They are a common treatment option for children.
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen (Advil): These may ease pain and discomfort.
  • Surgery: In rare cases, a surgeon may perform an operation to correct a lordotic curve. Typically, this is necessary when the curve is extreme.

Can you prevent lordosis?

Some of the conditions that cause lordosis are preventable. For example, you can lower your risk of bone fractures by avoiding contact sports.

You can also perform some exercises to maintain good posture and spinal health. These exercises include: 

  • performing yoga poses
  • tilting your neck from side to side
  • shrugging the shoulders
  • making pelvic tilts on a stability ball
  • taking sitting breaks if you stand a lot

Summary

Lordosis occurs when your spine curves too far inward. In some people, it causes no other symptoms. In others, it may cause numbness, tingling, limited movement, and weakness.

Many factors and conditions can cause lordosis. They include poor posture, a high BMI, and certain congenital disorders. Other causative factors include osteosarcoma and osteoporosis

To treat the condition, your doctor might recommend daily exercises and physical therapy. They may also recommend braces for children and surgery in the event of extreme spinal curvature. 

Talk with your doctor if you suspect that you may have lordosis.

Was this helpful?
0
Medical Reviewer: Angela M. Bell, MD, FACP
Last Review Date: 2022 May 17
View All Spine Conditions Articles
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.