Curvature of the Spine

Scoliosis. Hyperkyphosis. Hyperlordosis.

These three different conditions have a lot in common, but it’s important to understand the differences between them. Read on to learn all about these three spinal curvatures – their causes, their symptoms, and how they can be treated.

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Differences
Similarities
Causes
Treatment

What is the difference between scoliosis, hyperkyphosis and hyperlordosis?

Each of these conditions is characterised by a curvature of the spine. In order to determine whether you have scoliosis, hyperkyphosis or hyperlordosis, you will need to look at the direction and location of the curve – for example, scoliosis goes sideways, while hyperkyphosis is a forward curvature of the upper back.

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:

Scoliosis
  • Scoliosis
  • Hyperkyphosis
  • Hyperlordosis

Scoliosis

Our 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.

Hyperkyphosis

Our 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.

Hyperlordosis

Hyperlordosis 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?

While scoliosis, hyperkyphosis and hyperlordosis are very different from one another, they do share some similarities. These include:

Symptoms

Certain symptoms can arise as the result of spinal curvature no matter which type you have. There's a decent chance that all three of our imaginary patients suffer from some form of back pain, and muscular imbalance could well be a problem for each of them as well. Furthermore, any type of excessive spinal curvature is likely to have a negative impact on the patient's flexibility and mobility, resulting in a feeling of stiffness.

Body Image

When spinal curvature is severe enough to be visible, it can cause immeasurable damage to the patient's self-image. Low body confidence is a side-effect that's sadly very common amongst people with curved spines, and that's the case regardless of whether the curve goes forwards or sideways.

Treatment

All types of spinal curvature are commonly treated via surgery and/or a back brace. However, we have also found that scoliosis, hyperkyphosis and hyperlordosis can all be treated using exercise-based techniques such as those that make up our ScolioGold programme. This treatment method often elimates the need for surgical intervention, and can dramatically improve the patient’s quality of life.

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.

Scoliosis
  • Scoliosis
  • Hyperkyphosis
  • Hyperlordosis

Causes of Scoliosis

spinal curvature
Idopathic (No Known Cause)
Other Causes
Data from www.nhs.uk/conditions/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 Hyperkyphosis

Hyperkyphosis 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.

curvature of the spine
curvature of spine

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 Hyperlordosis

Hyperlordosis is commonly caused by bad posture, but it may also be linked to:
  • Obesity
  • 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:
Painkillers Painkillers
If the patient’s curved spine is causing them pain, this can be managed using painkillers of varying strengths. Over-the-counter drugs such as paracetamol may be sufficient in some cases, while more severe pain may require stronger prescription painkillers.
Bracing Bracing
If the patient’s body is still growing (i.e. if they are still a child), they may wear a brace to prevent their curvature from getting worse as they grow. This doesn’t reverse the curvature; it just stops it from progressing any further.
Surgery Surgery
In especially severe cases of scoliosis, hyperkyphosis or hyperlordosis, surgery may be recommended. Spinal fusion surgery is the most commonly-used procedure in all three cases. Learn more about this operation >
Physical Therapy Physical Therapy
Exercise-based treatment programmes like our ScolioGold method can help to reduce spinal curvature without surgical intervention. Read more about ScolioGold therapy >
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