Alternative Names swayback, hollow back, saddle back
Definition Lordosis refers to a abnormal bending of the spine. In lordosis, the curve of the spine arches forward.
What is going on in the body? The normal spine has a slight degree of lordosis in the neck and lower back regions, and bends forward in the chest area. In excessive lordosis, there is a greater arching of the spine, particularly in the lower back area.
What are the signs and symptoms of the condition? Lordosis often causes no symptoms, but may be associated with increased strain on the lower back, followed by low back pain. The buttocks appear prominent as a result of the excessive arching in the lower back. In addition, the hamstring tendons at the back of the thigh may be tight. This tightening can limit the person's ability to raise the leg straight when lying flat on the back.
What are the causes and risks of the condition? Specific causes of excessive lordosis include:
spondylolisthesis, or the slipping forward of one vertebra on top of the one below, in the lower back region
achondroplasia, which is the abnormal conversion of cartilage into bone that results in dwarfism
What can be done to prevent the condition? There is no prevention for this condition.
How is the condition diagnosed? Lordosis is diagnosed based on a physical examination.
What are the long-term effects of the condition? Lordosis that occurs in childhood usually corrects itself and is not a medical problem. If the lordosis does not correct itself, there may be a significant underlying problem that can worsen if not addressed. In addition, permanent lordosis may cause increased strain on the lower spine, resulting in chronic low back pain.
What are the risks to others? There are no risks to others.
What are the treatments for the condition? Treatment is often not unnecessary when lordosis is minimal. Appropriate exercises and posture may help to reduce arching. In rare cases, a back brace or an operation may be needed.
What are the side effects of the treatments? There are usually no side effects. A brace may cause skin irritation. Following surgery, there may be infection, nerve injury, failure of the bone to heal, or pain. Lack of treatment may lead to progressive lordosis.
How is the condition monitored? Periodic checkups can help assess the degree of lordosis and the flexibility of the back.
Author: John A.K. Davies, MD Reviewer: HealthAnswers Australia Medical Review Panel Editor: Dr David Taylor, Chief Medical Officer HealthAnswers Australia Last Updated: 1/10/2001 Contributors Potential conflict of interest information for reviewers available on request
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