What to know about hyperlordosis

Hyperlordosis is a condition where extreme curvature of the spine occurs in the lower back.

In the lower back, or lumbar area, hyperlordosis produces a distinctive C-shaped curve where the spine curves inward just above the buttocks. This also happens as a consequence of bad posture or a lack of exercise.

We take a look at hyperlordosis in this post, and describe its symptoms and treatment. We also have a list of exercises which can help with symptoms relief.

Symptoms

Symptoms of hyperlordosis include lower back pain and a curved spine.
Symptoms of hyperlordosis include lower back pain and a curved spine.

Hyperlordosis can cause muscle tightening and lower back stiffness. In the lumbar region, it may also damage the spine and soft tissues.

An individual with hyperlordosis can develop symptoms as follows:

  • A curved spine. Hyperlordosis leads to excessive curvature of the spine in the lower back, causing the abdomen and buttocks to appear more prominent in profile view.
  • Lower back pain. People with hyperlordosis may experience mild to severe lower back pain, which may worsen with movement.

Causes of hyperlordosis

Many factors may cause or contribute to hyperlordosis, including:

Poor posture

Bad posture is a leading cause of hyperlordosis.

The muscles in the lumbar region can tighten too much when the body is in a seated position as they attempt to stabilize and protect the spinal column. This eventually pushes the spine out of balance, causing greater spine curvature.

People with jobs that require them to sit for longer periods of time may have an increased chance of having hyperlordosis.

Obesity

The accumulation of excess fat in the abdomen and buttocks results from obesity. This puts additional pressure on the lower back, which can cause bending of the lumbar spine.

A lack of exercise

A lack of exercise may weaken the core muscles that sit around the trunk and pelvis, in addition to raising the risk of obesity. Weak muscles are less capable of supporting the spinal column, causing excessive curvature of the spine.

Spinal situations

In certain cases, some underlying spinal disorders, such as kyphosis, spondylolisthesis and discitis, can be the result of hyperlordosis.

Diagnosis

Hyperlordosis can be difficult to diagnose as there is a large difference in the population in the natural lower spine curvature (lumbar lordosis).

An X-ray can help to assess the curvature of the spine, but if they believe that an abnormality in the soft tissue is responsible for hyperlordosis, a doctor may order a magnetic resonance imaging ( MRI) or computed tomography ( CT) scan.

Treatment

Diagram of Hyperlordosis
Hyperlordosis may initially be treated with anti-inflammatory medication.

In order to alleviate the painful symptoms of hyperlordosis, a doctor may start by prescribing pain relief and anti-inflammatory medication. 

Longer-term therapy depends on the cause of the disease. If hyperlordosis refers to a structural problem with the spine, it may be appropriate to refer to a physical therapist or back specialist. 

Where obesity may be a contributing factor, it is likely that the doctor will formulate a strategy for weight loss. This may include exercises in physical therapy that stretch and strengthen the core muscles to enhance posture. 

Exercises 

The effect of certain exercises on lower spine curvature, back muscle strength, and chronic lower back pain was explored in a 2018 report

The study participants did a daily 60-minute workout, consisting of eight lumbar stabilization exercises aimed at strengthening back muscles and improving flexibility in the spine. They have been doing this exercise for 12 weeks, 3 days a week. 

There was a decline in lower back pain after 12 weeks, as well as improved lumbar muscle strength and flexibility. There was however no substantial improvement in the spine curvature. 

The workout included the following exercises relating to lumbar stabilisation: 

Situps

  • Lie on your back and bend your knees at a 90-degree angle, with feet flat against the floor.
  • Cross your arms across your chest and lift your torso up to meet your thighs.
  • Steadily lower your torso back down to the floor.

Superman exercise

  • Lie straight, face down, extending your arms in front of you.
  • Simultaneously raise your arms, legs, and chest off the floor.
  • Hold the pose for 2 seconds while exhaling.
  • Slowly lower your arms, legs, and chest back down to the ground while inhaling.

Quadruped arm and leg raise

  • Kneel on the floor, lean forward, and place your hands palm-down.
  • Keep the knees in line with the hips and the hands directly below the shoulders.
  • Simultaneously lift one arm and extend the opposite leg, so that they are in line with the spine.
  • Return to the starting position.

Squat

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Extend your arms out in front, clasping the hands together.
  • While facing forward, lower your body as though sitting in an imaginary chair. Continue lowering until your thighs are as parallel to the floor as possible. Keep your knees and ankles in line.
  • Push through your heels to return to the starting position.

Lower body or reverse plank

  • Sit with your legs out in front of you and lean back. Your back should be at a 45-degree angle to the floor.
  • Place your hands by your sides with palms facing down. Your arms should be in line with your shoulders and slightly behind your hips.
  • Look up at the ceiling and lift your hips while supporting your weight on your hands and heels. Tighten your core and glutes, keeping your body straight.
  • Hold the position for 10–15 seconds before lowering your body.

Upper body or forearm plank

  • Place your forearms and knees on the floor, shoulder-width apart. Ensure that the elbows and shoulders align, and hold the forearms straight out in front.
  • Lift both knees off the floor, pushing your feet back to extend your body fully. Look down to ensure that your neck is in line with the rest of your spine.
  • Hold the position, keeping your hips up while tightening your core and buttocks.

Side plank

One recommended lumbar stabilization exercise is the side plank.
One recommended lumbar stabilization exercise is the side plank.
  • Lie on your right side with feet together. Bend your right arm at the elbow so that your forearm is in line with your shoulder.
  • Contract your core muscles and raise your hips until your body forms a straight line from head to toe.
  • Hold the position for as long as possible without dropping the hips.
  • Repeat on the opposite side.

Hip bridge

  • Lie on your back and bend your knees, keeping feet hip-distance apart and heels a few inches from your buttocks. Place arms at the side, with hands near to the hips.
  • Squeeze your glutes and push through your heels to lift the hips upwards. Aim to create a diagonal line across the top of your body, from shoulders to knees.
  • Hold the position for 1–2 seconds before slowly lowering back down.

When working out it is important to warm up and then cool down for at least 10 minutes.

Hyperlordosis risks

Data from a 2017 study indicate a link between irregular spine curvature and osteoarthritis, or DJD. This is a condition in which it tears down the cartilage between the joints. 

The research does not make it clear which of the two factors activates the other. The writers, however, speculate that both hyperlordosis and hypolordosis (where the spine is straighter than it should be) put extra pressure on joints which can cause DJD. 

When to see a doctor 

If back pain worsens it is best to see a doctor. The diagnosis can be improved by keeping a diary to track the severity of back pain and how it affects everyday activities. 

People can also seek medical advice if they have any of the following, because these symptoms can suggest an alternative or additional underlying problem: 

  • a persistent curve in the lower back, even when bending forward
  • tingling or numbness in the back, arms , or legs 
  • muscle spasms 
  • bladder or bowel issues 

Outlook 

Hyperlordosis is due to particular lifestyle factors in most cases. Maintaining a healthy weight and daily exercise also help improve posture problems and lower back pain. 

If exercise does not relieve hyperlordosis symptoms, then it is best to seek medical advice. 

Other spine conditions may cause or exacerbate hyperlordosis, though this is less common. Before making a diagnosis and developing a personalized care plan a doctor will conduct a spine test.

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