Nobody has a perfectly straight backbone. It is normal to have slight sagittal spinal curvature that forms a sort of gentle 'S' shape, as shown here:

Normal curvature of the spine

A 'normal' spine as viewed from the side, front and back

In this blog post, we will look at what constitutes a 'normal' curvature of the spine and what is classed as an abnormal / excessive curvature. 

Normal Curvature of the Spine

A normal curvature of the spine appears in the neck and lower back areas of the spine. When viewed from the side, these soft curves bend forward at the neck (cervical) section and outwards in the lower half (lumbar) of the spine. These normal curvatures of the spine help to distribute bodily stress more evenly during rest and movement.

These curves balance each other out, so your head should be aligned with your hips when standing up straight. This position works to minimise the effect of gravity and allows you to have good posture when moving around.

A healthy spine with a normal curvature should still be centred on the pelvis, and more or less straight when viewed from behind. While most people have a slight sideways curve, the spine should not curve more than 10 degrees to the left or right. 

Abnormal Curvatures of the Spine

An abnormal curvature of the spine can take a number of different forms, including:

  • Scoliosis - Scoliosis is an excessive curvature of the spine to the left or right (or both). Common symptoms of scoliosis include uneven shoulder blades, hips and rib humps.

  • Hyperlordosis - Hyperlordosis is an excessive forward curvature of the lower spine, making it appear that the patient's stomach and rear are sticking out.

  • Hyperkyphosis - Hyperkyphosis is an excessive forward curvature of the upper spine, often resulting in a 'hunchback' appearance.

If you think you may be experiencing any of these disorders, it is important to go and see a GP before the curvature progresses any further. Unfortunately, in most cases, the condition will not improve by itself and will require treatment.

Flat Back Syndrome

It is also possible to have an abnormally small sagittal curvature of the spine. Flat back syndrome refers to a straightening of the spinal cord, usually in the thoracic (upper) part of the spine, resulting in an overall imbalance.

The surgical methods used to treat scoliosis from the 1960s to the 1980s are often cited as the cause of this problem, but modern techniques mean that flat back syndrome is far less common nowadays. Other causes of flat back syndrome include degenerative disc disease, vertebral compression fractures, ankylosing spondylitis and post-laminectomy syndrome.

If you think you may have a spinal abnormality, the Scoliosis SOS Clinic is dedicated to treating these conditions through exercise-based physical therapy. Click here to find out more about our treatment method, or contact us now to arrange an initial consultation.