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Normal Curvature of the Spine

Normal Curvature of the Spine -

Woman sitting at a desk with back painCurvature of the spine: What is normal?

There are 3 natural curves of our spine that allow us to absorb the mechanical stress of walking and moving. The term lordosis is seen in the lower back and cervical spine. The spine allows us to move through our world by absorbing the stresses of movement, ground reaction forces, and gravity. It is the excessive or limited amount of curvature that increases the demands on joints above and below that create pathology, pain, and limitations with movement.

 

Lordosis

With too much lordosis or ‘sway back’ additional compression is placed on the vertebral bodies posteriorly, and compression on the nerves coming out of the spine. This allows the pelvis to become anteriorly tipped. All of these may result in arthritis, leg or back pain, and there is now an excessive demand now put on the leg musculature increasing the chance for instability and further leg injury.

The same compression forces are presented in the cervical spine, but compensatory patterns can produce issues up the chain resulting in tension headaches, shoulder pain (including shoulder blade), rib pain, jaw pain and neck pain. Abnormal cervical lordosis may even affect breathing patterns and swallowing.

Kyphosis

In the midback there are 12 vertebrae that curve in the opposite direction, this is called kyphosis. Excessive kyphosis or rounding of the spine, increases the compression forces on the anterior portion of the spine and increase the “poor posture” that we commonly see in older women. This compensated kyphotic position increases the demand on the scapular stabilizers (shoulder blade muscles) and decreases the ability to lift an arm up to the ceiling, do hair, and eating.

The Result

All of these curves are needed to maintain a correct upright position, too much or too little of the curvature will increase the demand above or below the limitation. This can cause difficulty with breathing, walking, pain, and even degenerative permanent vertebral changes.

Fortunately, there are methods that will assist with re-positioning and re-balancing your posture through breathing techniques and habit modification that you will be able to incorporate in your daily life. Physical Therapy can assess movement patterns and musculoskeletal problems that can help address these problems.



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