Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Back Pain Health Center

Select An Article

Types of Spine Curvature Disorders

The spine, or backbone, is made up of small bones (vertebrae) stacked -- along with discs -- one on top of another. A healthy spine when viewed from the side has gentle curves to it. The curves help the spine absorb stress from body movement and gravity.

When viewed from the back, the spine should run straight down the middle of the back. When abnormalities of the spine occur, the natural curvatures of the spine are misaligned or exaggerated in certain areas, as occurs with lordosis, kyphosis, and scoliosis.  

Recommended Related to Back Pain

Understanding Back Pain -- Diagnosis and Treatment

Before a doctor can begin treating back pain, he or she may do tests to diagnose what is causing your problem. Unless you are totally immobilized from a back injury, your doctor probably will test your range of motion and nerve function and touch your body to locate the area of discomfort. Blood and urine tests may be done to be sure the pain is not caused by an infection or other systemic problem. X-rays are useful in pinpointing broken bones or other skeletal defects. To analyze soft-tissue damage...

Read the Understanding Back Pain -- Diagnosis and Treatment article > >

What are the types of spine curvature disorders?

There are three main types of spine curvature disorders, including:

  • Lordosis. Also called swayback, the spine of a person with lordosis curves significantly inward at the lower back.
  • Kyphosis. Kyphosis is characterized by an abnormally rounded upper back (more than 50 degrees of curvature).
  • Scoliosis. A person with scoliosis has a sideways curve to their spine. The curve is often S-shaped or C-shaped.

 

What causes spine curvature disorders?

There are a number of health problems that may cause the spine to curve more than normal or be misaligned.

The following conditions can cause lordosis:

  • Achondroplasia. A disorder in which bones do not grow normally, resulting in the short stature associated with dwarfism
  • Spondylolisthesis. A condition in which a vertebrae, usually in the lower back, slips forward
  • Osteoporosis, a condition in which vertebrae become fragile and can be easily broken (compression fractures)
  • Obesity, or being extremely overweight
  • Kyphosis. A condition marked by an abnormally rounded upper back
  • Discitis. Inflammation of the disc space between the bones of the spine most often caused by infection
  • Benign (harmless) juvenile lordosis

The following conditions can cause kyphosis:

  • Abnormal vertebrae development in utero (congenital kyphosis)
  • Poor posture or slouching (postural kyphosis)
  • Scheuermann's disease, a condition that causes vertebrae to be misshaped (Scheuermann's kyphosis)
  • Arthritis
  • Osteoporosis
  • Spina bifida, a birth defect in which the spinal column of the fetus does not close completely during development inside the womb
  • Spine infections
  • Spine tumors

Doctors do not know what causes the most common type of scoliosis seen in adolescents.  However, doctors do know that scoliosis tends to run in families. A disease, injury, infection, or birth defect also may be to blame.

WebMD Medical Reference

Next Article:

Today on WebMD

back pain
Article
woman with lower back pain
Quiz
 
man on cellphone
Slideshow
acupuncture needles in woman's back
Slideshow
 

low back pain
Video
pain in brain and nerves
Slideshow
 
Chronic Pain Healtcheck
Health Check
break at desk
Article
 

Woman holding lower back
Slideshow
Weight Loss Surgery
Slideshow
 
lumbar spine
Slideshow
back pain
Article