Kyphosis and Lordosis

Excessive outward curvature at the top of the spine (kyphosis) or inward curvature in the lower back (lordosis)

  • Being overweight is a risk factor
  • Age, gender, and genetics as risk factors depend on the cause

Viewed from the side, a normal spine has two main curves along its length. If you have kyphosis or lordosis, these natural curves may become exaggerated. In kyphosis, there is an excessive outward curve at the top of the back, which results in a rounded back, or “hunchback”. Lordosis affects the spine in the lower back, leading to an exaggerated “hollow back”. Kyphosis and lordosis often occur together, resulting in excessive curvature both at the top and in the small of the back.

If kyphosis occurs in childhood, the cause is often not known. In adults, disorders that limit mobility, such as osteoarthritis, or that weaken the vertebrae (bones of the spine), such as osteoporosis, are the most common causes of kyphosis. Poor posture may also lead to kyphosis.

Kyphosis often leads to lordosis because the lower spine compensates for the imbalance of the curve at the top of the spine. Lordosis may also develop in people with weak abdominal muscles and poor posture. People who are very overweight are more likely to develop lordosis since they tend to lean backwards to improve their balance. Your doctor may advise you on ways to improve your posture. He or she will probably recommend that you avoid strenuous activity and lose any excess weight. Posture can be improved by physiotherapy, which strengthens the muscles supporting the spine.

People with abnormal curvature of the spine have a predisposition to other spinal problems in later life, such as a prolapsed or herniated disc.

Kyphosis and lordosis

The child in this photograph has kyphosis, in which the back below the neck is curved out and rounded, and lordosis, in which the lower back is excessively hollow.

From the 2010 revision of the Complete Home Medical Guide © Dorling Kindersley Limited.

The subjects, conditions and treatments covered in this encyclopaedia are for information only and may not be covered by your insurance product should you make a claim.

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