Learning About The Different Spinal Deformity Types

A comparison of an ideal spinal curvature next to a spine with hyperkyphosis and hyperlordosis to show the different spinal deformity types.

Spinal issues are more widespread than many may think. Whether it’s too much or too little kyphosis, lordosis, or scoliosis, there are many spinal deformity types that can manifest in a myriad of ways. Regardless of how they occur, these can create a variety of issues for individuals, ranging in severity from pain to shortened lifespans.

Below, we detail some of the most common spinal deformities and expand upon how chiropractic care could be the solution to a better quality of life. 

What Are the Most Common Spinal Deformity Types?

The spine is one of the most important parts of the human body that performs many functions. The spinal column consists of three sections, known as the:

  • Cervical spine: This is the neck region of your spine and consists of the first seven vertebrae, with the very top of the cervical spine connected to the base of the skull. 
  • Thoracic spine: This is the middle and longest section of the spine. Consisting of 12 vertebrae, it begins at the base of the neck and extends to the bottom of the ribs.
  • Lumbar spine: The lumbar spine, which connects to the pelvis, is the lowest portion of the spine and consists of five vertebrae.

While the spine contains the spinal cord and is a crucial component of the central nervous system, it also serves as the body’s main support structure. It’s essentially the trunk of our body, as our appendages and many of the muscles and ligaments that provide stability to the body are rooted into the spine and back. Moreover, because it is constructed of many interlinked joints buffered with soft, fluid-filled sacs, it is also the body’s spring. 

The spine’s natural curvature is pivotal to properly serve these purposes. That’s why spinal misalignments can be very detrimental to your quality of life. Spinal misalignments can be caused by various types of spinal deformities, such as:

  • Kyphosis: Kyphosis is a flexion curvature of the spine and is the normal shape of the thoracic spine. Too much hunch or forward flexion is called hyperkyphosis, while a flat midback or too much extension is known as hypokyphosis.
  • Lordosis: Lordosis is an extension or c-shaped curve normally found in the cervical and lumbar spine. A loss of this curve is called hypolordosis, while a gain of this curvature is called hyperlordosis.
  • Scoliosis: Scoliosis is an unnatural lateral curvature that exceeds 10 degrees with some form of twisting. It can affect any region of the spine.

The ways these spinal deformity types affect the spine are multitudinous, and the area of the spine that spinal misalignment manifests as well as the direction in which the unnatural curvature appears will dictate what kind of symptoms you may experience. 

Type of Spinal Deformity  Type of Spinal Deformity  Symptoms
Hyperkyphosis and hypokyphosis Thoracic (mid-back)
  • Hyperkyphosis (forward curve or hunch)
    • Back pain
    • Disc herniations
    • Bone spurs
    • Lung and heart dysfunction
    • GERD or acid reflux
    • Increased likelihood of allergic reactions, eczema, and asthma from compression and reduced blood flow to the adrenal gland
      Increased odds of compression fractures
    • Reduced grip strength
    • Rotator cuff issues due to excess use of shoulders
    • Can shorten lifespan by about six to eight years if left untreated
  • Hypokyphosis (flattening of the curve)
    • Back pain
    • Joint issues
    • Joint issues
    • Rib issues, such as “slipping ribs” feeling out of place
    • Straight back syndrome
    • Pseudo heart disease
Hyperlordosis and Hypolordosis Cervical (neck/upper back)
Lumbar (lower back)
  • Hypolordosis, or reversed cervical curve
    • Neck pain
    • Headaches
    • Jaw pain
    • Pain in shoulders and arms
    • Increased tension on the spinal cord can reduce nerve transmission by around 20%
    • Decreased cognitive functionIncrease in “fight or flight” responses
    • Loss of blood flow to the brain Lumbar curve Lower back pain
    • Disc degeneration (hypo > hyper)Stenosis due to the narrowing of the canals where the spinal cord and nerves sit (hyper > hypo)
    • Numbness, tingling, and sciatica
    • Gait and lifting issues
    • Digestive issues
  • Anterior pelvic tilt (hyperlordosis)
    • Can increase pressure on the front of the hips, knees, and quad muscles
  • Posterior pelvic tilt (hypolordosis)
    • Loads discs and tightens the muscles in the glutes, hamstrings, and back of the legs
Scoliosis Cervical (neck/upper back)
Thoracic (mid-back)
Lumbar (lower back)
  • Cervical
    • Neck pain and stiffness
    • Decreased range of motion
    • Headaches
    • Muscle weakness
  • Thoracic
    • Back pain
    • Uneven shoulders
    • Uneven ribcage
    • Heart and lung complications
  • Lumbar
    • Lower back pain
    • Pelvic pain
    • Leg asymmetry
    • Pelvic misalignment
    • Sciatica 
    • Hip and leg pain

Causes of Spinal Deformities

Spinal deformities are created through a combination of nature and nurture causes. They can arise from genetic causes; however, aside from scoliosis, these are rare. 

Spinal deformities such as abnormal kyphosis and lordosis are more often caused by habits and behaviors such as:

  • Poor posture
  • Sitting for extended periods
  • Repetitive movements 
  • Trauma or injury

These habits and behaviors can push the spine in an unnatural direction, either individually or through a combination of factors. This is because the bones that constitute the spine are held together by ligaments. Over time, these ligaments adhere to their position, eroding the spine’s natural curvature and forcing the spine into misalignment.

It should be noted that if left untreated, spinal deformities will accelerate at different rates for men and women as they age. Spinal deformities will typically exacerbate for:

  • Women at about 50 years of age
  • Men at about 60 years of age

Treatment for Spinal Deformities 

Thankfully, there are effective treatment options for the different spinal deformity types. While you may find recommendations like stretches, exercise, and heat therapy for short-term pain relief, we do not typically advocate these as treatment options, as they may end up worsening symptoms. Moreover, they have not been shown to change the spine’s curvature. However, corrective chiropractic care is shown to provide a host of benefits for spinal deformities, including postural and curvature correction. 

Across the literature, one fact holds true—if you want to improve spinal alignment and restore natural curvature, a chiropractor must include spinal traction as part of your treatment plan to be successful.

Because spinal traction can stretch the ligaments and discs that are the guidewires for spinal curvature, it’s able to restore normal spinal curvature, treating many of the minor symptoms such as pain and stiffness while also providing a long-term solution to prevent some of the more severe symptoms of spinal deformities.

While spinal traction is shown to improve the spine’s curvature, not all chiropractic treatment plans are created equal. The best results will come from a treatment plan that is designed to address your spine’s unique needs and will need to be paired with postural exercise and neuromuscular reeducation.

Chiropractic BioPhysics® Provides Enhanced Treatment 

The various spinal deformity types affect the body in a staggering number of ways—when it comes to spinal misalignment, no spine is the same. The team at PostureWorks can provide you with an individualized approach to address the idiosyncrasies of your spinal misalignment.

With Chiropractic BioPhysics®, we can properly assess your spine’s unique curvature. We use digital biomechanical X-rays to craft a fully customized treatment plan that pairs spinal traction with postural exercises, neuromuscular education, chiropractic adjustments, and bracing that reestablishes alignment to the spine while also training your body to hold the correct posture naturally.

Contact us today for more information on spinal deformity types or to schedule your appointment with PostureWorks.

Chiropractic BioPhysics®, or CBP, is a deeply researched and results-oriented corrective care technique. CBP-trained chiropractors aim to realign the spine back to health and optimal function. As with all chiropractic care, CBP is conservative, painless, and non-invasive.

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