Every person has spinal curvature. The place and degree of curvature varies from person to person. Normal spinal curvature is beneficial whereas abnormal curvature is detrimental. Normal spines curve gently from front to back in several places, while abnormal spinal curvature can either exaggerate these curves or cause curves to develop in places or directions that are not natural.
Normal Spine Curves
In a normal spine, there are four curves from top to bottom: the cervical curvature, the thoracic curvature, the lumbar curvature, and the sacral curvature. Each curve is named for the part of the spine where it is located.
The thoracic (middle back) and sacral (lower back) curves develop while we are still in the womb, and are present in normal, fully-developed newborns. At birth, the spine is c-shaped, and does not allow the baby to lift his or her head, stand, or crawl. Within the first several months, the cervical curvature develops, which allows the baby to hold his or her head up unassisted. Then, during six months to a year after birth, the lumbar curvature develops, which allows the infant to begin crawling and learning to walk.
Spinal Curvature Disorders
When doctors refer to spinal curvature in the medical sense, they are most often talking about disorders of the spine that cause abnormal curvature. There are three main disorders that cause abnormal spine curvature: kyphosis, lordosis, and scoliosis.
- Kyphosis – This disorder affects the thoracic (middle back) curvature of the spine, causing it to become more pronounced. Commonly referred to as a “hunchback,” kyphosis can be mild or severe, and is caused by bad posture (postural kyphosis), insufficient nutrition (nutritional kyphosis), disease (Scheuermann’s kyphosis or Gibbus deformity), or genetics (congenital kyphosis).
- Lordosis – Like spinal curvature itself, lordosis can refer to either normal or abnormal curves. The cervical (upper back) curvature and lumbar (lower back) curvature are curved forward in normal lordosis. Abnormal lordosis, however, is when the lumbar curve becomes pronounced, resulting in a swayback posture. This condition can cause moderate or severe lower back pain.
- Scoliosis – Unlike kyphosis or lordosis, scoliosis curves the spine in completely unnatural direction: side to side. The condition causes the spine to curve in an “s” or “c” shape, and can be either congenital (present at birth) or idiopathic (developing from no known cause). Scoliosis can also be the result of physical trauma or as a symptom of a disease such as spina bifida or cerebral palsy. Treatment options include close monitoring of the condition by physicians to ensure it does not progress, physical or occupational therapy, back braces, or in severe cases, surgery.
If pain from a spinal curvature or another disorder – such as a herniated disc or bone spur – is affecting your life, contact Laser Spine Institute. Our safe and effective outpatient procedures have helped tens of thousands of people rediscover their lives..