Lordosis (Swayback)

Lordosis at a glance

  • Lordosis (also known as swayback) is the abnormal inward curving of the lower back (lumbar spine).
  • Lordosis can be caused by a number of other conditions that affect the spine, as well as poor posture and obesity.
  • Symptoms include the inward curve of the spine, back pain and discomfort.
  • Treatment may include medication, physical therapy, bracing, weight loss, or spinal surgery.

What is lordosis and what causes it?

Curves are a normal part of the spine’s structure. These curves help position the head and neck, while also working as shock absorbers during movement of the body.

When the spine curve arches too far inward, however, it creates a condition called lordosis (or sometimes referred to as swayback). Lordosis can affect the lower back and neck.

Lordosis can develop from other conditions that affect the spine, as well as bad posture, hip problems, back surgery, or problems with the vertebrae from birth.

Conditions that cause lordosis include:

  • Spondylolisthesis, which causes one vertebra to slide out of position over another vertebra
  • Kyphosis, which causes an abnormal outward curving of the upper spine
  • Discitis, an inflammation of the discs that cushion the space between vertebrae, most commonly caused by an infection
  • Achondroplasia, which stunts normal bone growth (this condition is often associated with dwarfism)
  • Obesity, which causes the spine to support excessive weight

Symptoms of lordosis

The primary symptoms of lordosis, or swayback, are the prominence of the buttocks and a pronounced inward curve of the lower spine. This is evidenced by a large gap between the lower back and a hard surface when laying down that does not change when leaning forward.

Other symptoms can include excess pressure on the spine, causing back pain and discomfort. Symptoms can also include difficulty moving in certain ways, especially if left untreated.

Treatment of lordosis

For most people, lordosis does not cause significant health problems and significant treatment (if at all).

Treatment for lordosis may include medication to relieve swelling and pain, as well as physical therapy or exercise to help improve spinal flexibility and build muscle strength.

A back brace may be necessary to support the back or prevent the condition from worsening.

If obesity is the cause or is worsening the condition, weight loss may be another effective treatment.

Surgery for extreme lordosis, such as spinal fusion, is rarely performed.