Did you know that back and neck pain are two of the biggest reasons why someone needs medical attention? Unfortunately, it can be hard to figure out exactly what’s causing this pain, as there are many different factors that influence spine health. This includes the shape and movement of your spine.
One condition that can be a literal pain in the back and neck is called lordosis. Lordosis can happen to anyone, but certain people are at a higher risk of developing symptoms. What’s more surprising is that you could have lordosis without even knowing it. Could this be the reason behind your back or neck pain? Let’s jump in to what this condition is, how to recognize the frequently missed symptoms, and what to do if you are currently living with lordosis.
How Do You Define Lordosis?
Put most simply, lordosis can be defined as a curve in either your neck or back. Lordosis is often grouped together with other spine conditions, such as kyphosis (a curve toward the upper back that can cause hunched shoulders) and scoliosis (a sideways curve that results with the spine being in an “S” shape). But what differentiates lordosis from these other spinal issues is the way that it impacts the shape and movement of the spine.
Lordosis specifically refers to an extreme inward curve in the lower back, right above the buttocks. Having a curve at this point in the spine is normal, but if the degree of this curve extends to or past 40 degrees, it’s considered lordosis. Lordosis can also impact the neck and cause an excessive curve in the cervical spine.
Certain factors can increase the risk of you developing lordosis. These include:
In many cases, lordosis is mild enough that people do not even know they have it. Rather, your doctor might discover that you have this condition upon a physical examination in which they assess your posture. For further testing and confirmation of lordosis, your doctor might order medical imaging, such as an X-ray or MRI. A combination of a physical assessment, imaging, and discussion of any potential symptoms can help you to learn if lordosis is something that is currently impacting you.
What Are the Symptoms of Lordosis?
It’s very possible to have lordosis but not have any impactful symptoms that stem from the condition. However, for some people with lordosis, the symptoms are very noticeable. Medical experts can sometimes tell when someone has lordosis just by looking at their posture. With the spine curving inward, the person’s backside usually sticks out. If the lordosis is located in the cervical spine, the head might jut forward.
Moreover, because a curve in the spine throws everything else out of alignment, lordosis can result in pain throughout the neck, back, hips, legs, and more. It can also cause tight hamstrings that decrease flexibility and cause painful muscle spasms. Lordosis can also lead to more serious, long-term issues, including:
In some cases, people with lordosis end up having these complications before they receive a diagnosis. But when they do learn about the curve in their spine, it serves as an opportunity to take corrective action as needed.
Do You Need Treatment for Lordosis?
Treatment for lordosis often depends on the severity of the curvature as well as the impact of the symptoms. For people with lordosis who are asymptomatic and only have a mild curve, there might not be any action needed at all. But if you are having symptoms that come as a result of lordosis, such as lower back pain, there are certain treatments that can help:
- Medication—Some people find relief in lordosis-related pain with certain medications. Anti-inflammatory medications, for example, can help the swelling around the irritated areas. Though medication cannot cure lordosis or even really help with the severity of the curve in the spine, it can be useful in reducing some of the pain. As others with chronic pain can attest to, taking medications for pain, whether these are NSAIDs or opioids, there are risks and benefits to consider.
- Physical therapy—More research is needed to understand exactly what type of physical therapy is needed to help with lordosis. However, in the meantime, people with lordosis have noticed that physical therapy can help to strengthen the spine while also providing more flexibility to the muscles around the curve. The muscles have the possibility to go into spasm from the strain of working, socializing, tending to daily responsibilities, or even just from sleeping. Physical therapy can address these problems and more.
- Braces—Sometimes, custom-made braces are necessary to help straighten out the curve in the back or neck. Braces should be a temporary solution so as not to lose any muscle or range of motion. These should also be used in conjunction with other treatment solutions, such as physical therapy.
- Surgery—When lordosis is severe enough to greatly impact someone’s ability to do things, it might be time to consider more invasive methods of treatment. Talk to your doctor about the option of surgery to fix the curvature in the spine. Fusing the vertebrae to reduce the intensity of the curve might seem like an extreme option, but in reality, it’s a small price someone who lives with pain from lordosis could be willing to pay for a day free of discomfort.
What Are the Next Steps?
Because lordosis impacts everyone differently, you should always talk to your doctor about the next steps in your specific treatment plan. Usually, you will need to be assessed first to know the extent to which lordosis affects you. Then, from there, you can talk to your doctor about the symptoms that are most pressing.
Always advocate for yourself when you know you need better pain management. If you ever need assistance with understanding your symptoms and speaking up for what you need, you can find advice from people just like you by joining the Pain Resource Community. Be heard, be seen, and find a network of resources for lordosis and other painful conditions right at your fingertips.
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