What to know about hyperlordosis
Hyperlordosis creates a characteristic C-shaped curve in the lower back, or lumbar region, where the spine curves inward just above the buttocks. It often occurs as a result of poor posture or a lack of exercise.
In this article, we take a look at hyperlordosis and explain its symptoms and treatment. We also provide a list of exercises that may help to relieve symptoms.
Symptoms of hyperlordosis include lower back pain and a curved spine.
Hyperlordosis can cause muscle tightening and stiffness in the lower back. It can also damage the spine and soft tissues in the lumbar region.
A person with hyperlordosis may experience the following symptoms:
- 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 is one of the most common causes of hyperlordosis.
When the body is in a seated position, muscles in the lumbar region can tighten too much as they try to stabilize and support the spinal column. This gradually pulls the spine out of alignment, causing increased curving of the spine.
People with jobs that require them to sit for extended periods may have a higher risk of getting hyperlordosis.
Obesity results in the presence of excess fat in the abdomen and buttocks. This puts extra strain on the lower back, which may cause the lumbar spine to bend.
A lack of exercise
In addition to increasing the risk of obesity, a lack of exercise can weaken the core muscles that sit around the trunk and pelvis. Weak muscles are less able to support the spinal column, allowing the spine to curve excessively.
In some cases, hyperlordosis may be the result of other underlying spinal problems, such as kyphosis, spondylolisthesis, and discitis.
It can be difficult to diagnose hyperlordosis as there is a huge variation in natural lower spine curvature (lumbar lordosis) throughout the population.
An X-ray may help to measure the curvature of the spine, but a doctor will request a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computed tomography (CT) scan if they think an abnormality in the soft tissue is responsible for the hyperlordosis.
Hyperlordosis may initially be treated with anti-inflammatory medication.
A doctor may begin by prescribing pain relief and anti-inflammatory medication to relieve the painful symptoms of hyperlordosis.
Longer-term treatment will depend on the cause of the condition. If the hyperlordosis relates to a structural issue with the spine, referral to a physical therapist or back specialist may be necessary.
Where obesity may be a contributing factor, the doctor is likely to devise a weight-loss plan. This may include physical therapy exercises that stretch and strengthen core muscles to improve posture.
A 2018 study investigated the effect of certain exercises on lower spine curvature, back muscle strength, and chronic lower back pain.
The people taking part in the study did a regular 60-minute workout, consisting of eight lumbar stabilization exercises that aimed to strengthen back muscles and increase spine flexibility. They did this workout 3 days a week for 12 weeks.
After 12 weeks, there was a reduction in lower back pain, as well as increased lumbar muscle strength and flexibility. However, there was no significant change in the curvature of the spine.
The workout included the following lumbar stabilization exercises:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
- 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 essential to spend at least 10 minutes warming up and then cooling down.
The results of a 2017 study show a relationship between abnormal spine curvature and osteoarthritis, or degenerative joint disease (DJD). This is a disease in which the cartilage between the joints breaks down.
It is not clear from the study which of the two conditions causes the other. However, the authors speculate that both hyperlordosis and hypolordosis (where the spine is straighter than it should be) place extra strain on joints, which can cause DJD.
When to see a doctor
It is best to see a doctor if back pain worsens. Keeping a diary to monitor the severity of the back pain and how it impacts on daily activities may assist the diagnosis.
People should also seek medical advice if they experience any of the following, as these symptoms may indicate 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
In most cases, hyperlordosis is due to specific lifestyle factors. Often, maintaining a healthy weight and exercising regularly can improve issues with posture and lower back pain.
If exercise does not alleviate the symptoms of hyperlordosis, it is best to seek medical advice.
Other conditions of the spine can cause or aggravate hyperlordosis, although this is less common. A doctor will carry out a spine examination before making a diagnosis and creating a tailored treatment plan.