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Back Pain Health Center

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Types of Spine Curvature Disorders

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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.

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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.

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