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Mind Your Spinal Curves: Understanding Scoliosis, Kyphosis, and Lordosis:

Updated: Apr 8

Our spine plays a crucial role in supporting our body, providing stability, and facilitating movement. However, there are certain conditions that can affect the natural alignment of the spine, leading to postural abnormalities and potential health issues. In this blog, we will take a look at three common spinal conditions: scoliosis, kyphosis, and lordosis. By understanding these conditions, we can learn to recognise them in ourselves and our loved ones and take proactive steps towards better spinal health and overall well-being.

Spinal curvatures

  1. Scoliosis: Embracing the Curves

Scoliosis is a spinal condition characterised by abnormal sideways curvature often accompanied by spinal rotation (imagine a stretched out spring). There are different types of scoliosis, such as idiopathic scoliosis (most common in adolescents), congenital scoliosis (present at birth), and degenerative scoliosis (develops due to age-related changes).

Whilst it is true that most of us have a tiny bit of sideways curvature, only curves over 10° will be diagnosed as scoliosis. The degree of curvature can vary hugely from person to person and can show up as uneven shoulders or hips, one side of the ribcage becomes more prominent, one shoulder blade winging out to the side, back pain, and visible spinal curvature. As many of you know, my teenage daughter was recently diagnosed with this condition. Since then I've discovered that it is especially common for this condition to develop in adolescence. Kids here in Scotland are no longer screened at school so parents, please do check your growing kids spines! (Adams Test) The sooner you catch it the more you can do to avoid spinal surgery.

  1. Kyphosis: Understanding the Hunch

Kyphosis refers to an excessive outward curvature of the upper back, resulting in a rounded or hunched appearance. There are different types of kyphosis, such as postural kyphosis (related to poor posture), Scheuermann's kyphosis (a structural deformity), and age-related kyphosis also known as hyperkyphosis or "dowager's hump," this type of kyphosis commonly affects older adults. It is often associated with osteoporosis, as the vertebrae become weakened and compressed, resulting in an increased forward curvature of the upper back. This is the one I most commonly see in the yoga class. Treatment of hyperkyphosis focuses on managing osteoporosis, improving posture, and maintaining spine health through exercise and physical therapy. Signs and symptoms of kyphosis can include a visibly rounded upper back, forward head posture, back pain, stiffness, fatigue, and, in severe cases, difficulty breathing or neurological symptoms if there is spinal cord compression.

  1. Lordosis: Balancing the Curve

Lordosis is a spinal condition characterised by an excessive inward curvature of the lower back, leading to an accentuated arch. This condition is also known as swayback or hyperlordosis.

The spine normally has natural curves that help distribute the body's weight evenly and maintain balance. These curves include the inward curve of the neck (cervical lordosis), the outward curve of the upper back (thoracic kyphosis), and the inward curve of the lower back (lumbar lordosis). Lordosis specifically refers to an exaggerated lumbar curvature.

In a healthy spine, the lumbar lordosis provides support, stability, and shock absorption. However, when the curve becomes excessive, it can cause problems. Common causes of this condition are poor posture, muscle imbalances, obesity and the hormonal changes and shift in the centre of gravity during pregnancy.

It is important to understand that the majority of us, for whatever reason, have some sort of little kink in our spines, I recently noticed that I have a scoliotic curve! However if your curves cause you to suffer in any way it is important to address them as they can significantly impact quality of life. By recognising the signs, understanding the causes, and exploring available treatment options, we can actively promote spinal health. Remember, early detection, regular monitoring, and appropriate interventions are vital in managing these conditions effectively.

upper thoracic scoliotic curve
My upper thoracic scoliotic curve

While it's always recommended to consult a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis, here are some tips to help you become more aware of potential signs of scoliosis, kyphosis, and lordosis in your own body:

  1. Regular Postural Check: Stand in front of a mirror and observe your body alignment. Look for any noticeable asymmetry, such as uneven shoulders, hips, or a tilted waistline. Pay attention to the curvature of your upper and lower back. I also recommend having someone take your photo from the side as you stand naturally so you can see your alignment for yourself (see image below).

  2. Spinal Alignment: Lie down on a flat surface, such as a yoga mat, and observe the natural alignment of your spine. Is your spine straight, or do you notice any excessive curves or arches?

  3. Clothing Fit: Pay attention to how your clothes fit. Do they hang differently on one side of your body? Are your shirts or blouses consistently lopsided? This could be an indication of spinal curvature.

  4. Back Pain or Discomfort: Take note of any persistent or recurring pain or discomfort in your back, especially in the upper or lower regions. Be mindful of any stiffness, muscle tightness, or limited mobility that may accompany the pain.

  5. Uneven Gait: Pay attention to the way you walk. Do you have a noticeable limp or a tendency to favour one side? An abnormal gait can be an indication of an underlying spinal condition.

  6. Shoulder Blade Symmetry: Observe the position and alignment of your shoulder blades. Look for any significant protrusion or one shoulder blade appearing more prominent than the other.

  7. Rib Cage Alignment: Notice if one side of your rib cage appears more prominent or protrudes compared to the other side.

poor posture and good posture
Hunched posture and good posture

The good thing is there is so much you can do to help yourself! Try and find a form of regular exercise you enjoy as staying mobile is so important. Try yoga, pilates, strength training, swimming, dancing or regular walking. Get curious about your curves and figure out what works best for your unique body. Take a look at your diet, can it be improved? Do you drink enough water? Can you make some simple changes to the way you do everyday activities for example looking at how you sit whilst watching TV or working on your computer? Remember, self-awareness is the first step, but it's crucial to seek professional evaluation for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment plan.

I hope you found this helpful. Feel free to ask questions. If you'd like to join my yoga classes here in Banchory then book via We can also connect via Instagram or Facebook

"The intelligence of the body resides in the spine. Listen to it, trust it, and it will guide you." ~Vanda Scaravelli

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