When Your Spine Takes a Wrong Turn: Understanding lumbar and cervical lordosis conditions
January 11, 2023
Did you know back pain is one of the most common reasons patients see a doctor in the United States? Some of that pain can stem from the loss of the natural ‘S’ curve of the back and neck. This normal curve helps support the weight of the head and proper range of motion in the neck and also provides the spine with its overall strength and flexibility.
The lordotic (neck and lower back) and kyphotic (upper back) curves give your spine its ‘S’ shape in your upper back — known as lordosis. Due to certain prolonged activities over time, accidents, and age, we can lose this natural and healthy curvature. Lordosis issues, or swayback, occurs when your curvature curves too far inward. Individuals suffering from it have an inward curvature either in the lower or upper back.
Causes of Lordosis
In general, lumbar and cervical lordosis conditions are caused by muscular problems or structural changes that impact the discs and bones that make up the spine. Some of the most common conditions that can lead to lordosis include:
- Poor posture
Symptoms of Lordosis
The difference in lumbar or cervical lordosis is related to where the spine abnormality occurs. Cervical lordosis pushes your neck further forward than it should be. Lumbar lordosis pushes your hips and pelvis further forward than they should be. In addition to the physical signs of lordosis, other symptoms can include:
- Electric shock-type pains
- Limited movement in the neck or lower back
- Muscle pain and/or weakness
- Pain that extends into the neck, shoulders, and upper back
In some cases, people with lumbar lordosis may also have a trapped or pinched nerve, which can be extremely painful.
What is Cervical Lordosis?
Those with this curvature in the upper back have cervical lordosis. An excessive inward bend of the spine is its distinguishing feature. The buttocks and stomach region might protrude depending on the location of the curve abnormality. A person with lordosis may find it difficult to lie flat on the floor due to the curvature of their back.
What is Lumbar Lordosis?
When the spine arches forward in the lower back region, it’s considered lumbar lordosis.
One of the most common reasons people have lumbar lordosis is because of imbalances in muscle strength and length. Athletes, like gymnasts, have an increased risk of developing the condition.
Diagnosis and Treatment of Lordosis
The dangers of lordosis conditions can be severe. Because your vertebrae function as shock absorbers for the spine, any degradation or change caused by cervical curvature can result in spinal damage.
Cervical lordosis: In some instances, a physical exam and a patient’s medical history could be enough to provide an accurate diagnosis. However, it’s more likely that more x-rays and diagnostic screening will be necessary. Comparing multiple exams over time can help to reveal alterations in the spine and the cause.
Critically, cervical lordosis can lead to disturbance of the brain’s vital nutrients and oxygen sources. That can cause hypertension, discomfort, lethargy, nausea, dizziness, and sleeplessness.
Once you receive a cervical lordosis diagnosis, treatment options will be provided based on the severity of your curvature and how much discomfort you’re experiencing. Oftentimes, postural physical therapy is used to relieve strain on the nerves and prevent further curvature. Further treatment can include medication, compresses, focused exercises, regenerative medicine, or the use of a supportive device (e.g. a neck brace).
Lumbar lordosis: The primary goal of treatment for lumbar lordosis is to rebuild your strength and flexibility, which will restore your range of motion and help protect the spine. This can be done through physical therapy, especially with exercises that strengthen the hip extensors and stretch the hip flexors.
A surgical correction could be required if the curvature interferes with organ function, pain is intense, or when all less invasive treatment interventions fail. Possible procedure options can include:
- Artificial disc replacement
- Spinal instrumentation
Does Any of This Sound Familiar?
If you are experiencing anything described above or already have a lordosis diagnosis, our experienced and compassionate back and neck specialists at Beacon can help. Schedule an online appointment today.