Curvature of the Spine
Scoliosis. Hyperkyphosis. Hyperlordosis.
What is the difference between scoliosis, hyperkyphosis and hyperlordosis?
To get a better understanding of the differences, let’s imagine three different people: one with scoliosis, one with hyperkyphosis, and one with hyperlordosis.
Select a condition to learn more about it:
ScoliosisOur scoliosis sufferer has a spine with an excessive sideways curve. They are probably female, since scoliosis is more common in women than in men. Unless the scoliosis patient has an underlying condition like Marfan syndrome or a Chiari malformation, their spinal curvature probably has no clear cause (this is known as idiopathic scoliosis). If this is the case - as it is around 80% of the time - it's likely that the patient was first diagnosed with scoliosis between the ages of 10 and 15 years old.
HyperkyphosisOur hyperkyphosis patient has an excessive forward curvature in the upper region of the spine. This person is likely to be male, as hyperkyphosis affects more men than women. This patient's spine may be curved due to Scheuermann's disease or another abnormality, but equally, his curvature may simply have been caused by poor posture and/or getting older.
HyperlordosisHyperlordosis and hyperkyphosis aren't too dissimilar, but our hyperlordosis patient has an excessive arched posture in the lower region of the spine (whereas hyperkyphosis affects the upper region of the spine). A hyperlordotic spine may be the result of genetic conditions like achondroplasia, or of environmental factors such as obesity. Interestingly, hyperlordosis is quite common amongst professional dancers, who can develop spinal curvatures due to the amount of stress they exert on their bodies.
What do these conditions have in common?
What causes curvature of the spine?Spinal curvature can stem from all kinds of different causes. Click on a condition to see its most common causes.
Causes of Scoliosis
According to the National Health Service, roughly 8 out of 10 cases of scoliosis have no known cause. This is called idiopathic scoliosis, and it’s thought to be genetic in nature.
When scoliosis is not idiopathic, it may be caused by:
- Cerebral Palsy - This condition generally affects the patient's coordination and movement, but can also cause irregular posture. Find out more here >
- Marfan Syndrome - This disorder is hereditary, and affects the body's connective tissues, which can have an effect on the patient's spine. Find out more here >
- Muscular Dystrophy - This genetic condition weakens muscles over time, and this gradual weakening can lead to a number of things - including the curvature of one’s spine. Find out more here >
- Birth Defects - Some scoliosis sufferers are born with the condition. Their spine developed improperly in the womb, causing the curvature of their spine. Find out more here >
Causes of HyperkyphosisHyperkyphosis is often the result of Scheuermann’s disease, a condition where the vertebrae (the small bones that make up the spine) develop into a wedge shape. Scheuermann’s disease commonly affects young people.
Other causes of hyperkyphosis include:
- Poor Posture - If you're constantly slouching whilst you're sat on a chair, you may develop hyperkyphosis later in your life.
- Congenital Issues - Sometimes, the cause of hyperkyphosis can be congenital. If a baby’s spine develops incorrectly in the womb, this may result in them developing a spinal curvature later in childhood; this will continue to progress and worsen as their spine grows.
- Underlying Conditions - Arthritis, osteoporosis, spina bifida, spinal infections, and tumours can all lead to hyperkyphosis.
Causes of HyperlordosisHyperlordosis is commonly caused by bad posture, but it may also be linked to:
- Discitis (inflammation of the disc space between the bones of the spine, commonly the result of an infection)
- Achondroplasia (a disorder in which the bones do not grow normally, resulting in short stature and – in some cases – hyperlordosis)
- Sitting or standing for long periods of time
- Injury / trauma
How can spinal curvature be treated?The best treatment for a curvature of the spine depends on the angle of the curve and the severity of the patient’s symptoms.
The most common treatment options are:
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