Abnormal Curvature of the Spine
The main purposes of the bony spine are to support the body’s weight, to provide stability of the torso, to allow for flexibility of motion, and to protect the spinal cord. Abnormal curvature of the spinal column’s vertebrae may hinder or result in the inability of the spine to carry out these functions. The spinal column is composed of 24 vertebrae. There are 7 cervical vertebrae starting at the base of the skull and spanning the neck, 12 thoracic vertebrae located in the upper trunk of the body, and 5 lumbar vertebrae in the lower back. The medical terminology for each of the sections is noted as C1-C7 for cervical vertebrae, T1-T12 for thoracic vertebrae, and L1-L5 for the lumbar vertebrae. A normal spine consists of concave and convex curvatures; however, when the curves become too extreme or the spine begins to curve laterally in the frontal plane, painful spinal conditions may evolve; common abnormal curvatures of the spine include kyphosis, lordosis, and scoliosis.
Kyphosis is identified by an abnormal outward curvature of the thoracic spine. This type of spinal abnormality is most prevalent among the elderly population. People with this specific spinal abnormality may experience difficulty with balance because it tends to lead to an abnormal flexion of the spine. This can also increase compression and shear forces applied to the thoracic vertebrae, resulting in constant discomfort and inhibition of comfortable range of motion. Causes of Kyphosis can be years of poor posture such as forward head posture, or conditions such as AS (Ankylosing Spondylitis), Scheuermann disease or DISH (Diffuse Idiopathic Skeletal Hyperostosis).
Lordosis refers the the abnormal curvature of the lumbar spine. When this occurs, the person typically experiences low back pain and muscle spasms. While it is common in dancers and in individuals who do not lift weight properly, it is also prominent among those who have uneven muscles between the abdominals and lower back muscles. A combination of weak hamstrings and tight hip flexors has also been known to cause lordosis.
Scoliosis is a condition in which the spine curves laterally in the frontal plane and can onset at any age. A cause of scoliosis is uneven muscles on either side of the spine, uneven hips, arm, or legs, or an abnormal rib cage rotation. Secondary scoliosis can arise from neuromuscular conditions such as spina bifida. To diagnose scoliosis, a doctor would look to identify if the spine is greater than 10 degrees out of normal range. Since the ribs are attached to the spine, if scoliosis is not identified early the ribs can apply abnormal pressure on internal organs that may result in other severe health concerns.
If the kyphosis or lordosis hasn’t progressed too far, chiropractic and physical therapy are both recommend to treat weakness and misalignments of the spine. However, if the spine is 50 degrees or greater outside the normal range of curvature, surgery may be required. At SF Custom Chiropractic, a thorough exam, including range of motion, postural check and orthopedic tests can be administered to identify the condition of the abnormal spinal curvature. Chiropractic therapy can slow down, stop, or even reverse the signs of abnormal spinal curvature. Part of the treatment process includes custom exercises and stretches that will help strengthen weaker muscles to alleviate the unevenness.
Briggs, A. M., Van Dieen, J. H., Wrigley, T. V., Grieg, a. M., Phillips, B., Sing Kai, L., & Bennell, K. L.
(2007). Thoracic Kyphosis Affects Spinal Loads and Trunk Muscle Force. Physical Therapy, 87(5), 595-607.