Distortions of the natural curvature of the spine are common, and may result from poor posture, weak ligaments, injury, spasm of the back muscles, or genetic causes. Problems and pain also occur when the nerves of muscles that surround the spinal column become irritated, compressed or torn. The following is a discussion of some specific conditions.
  1. Scoliosis (twisted spine) - Is lateral curvature of the spine, to the left or right. You can detect scoliosis by running a finger down the length of the spinal column, and comparing it with a straight line. Scoliosis will change the whole alignment of the body, and may cause:

    • one shoulder to be higher than the other, or
    • one leg to appear longer than the other, as a result of one side of the hip being pushed higher.
    • Scoliosis may be caused by:

    • an asymmetrical development of muscles in the back, chest, or abdomen, as a result of poliomyelitis or cerebal palsy
    • significant difference in the lengths of the legs
    • malformation or disease of the spinal column and associated structures resulting from fracture, or diseases such as spondylitis or spina bifida

    Scoliosis can be treated with orthopedic surgery, the use of traction, plaster casts, or exercises, depending on the cause.

  2. Kyphosis (rounded back) - Is increases outward curvature of the spine in the thoracic region. The condition ranges in severity. Symptoms and effects include:

    • slouching shoulders
    • overstretched back muscles
    • tight pectoral (chest) muscles
    • Lazy abdominal muscles, often resulting in 'drooping' of the abdomen
    • shortage of breath owing to limited chest movement

    The causes of kyphosis are frequently congenital, although the condition may come about as the result of injury.

  3. Lordosis (hollow back) - Is an increase in the normal curvature of the spine in the lumbar region, Typically:

    • the lower back becomes arched and stiff, and the muscles are shortened
    • the buttocks stick out, with the muscles becoming overstretched
    • the abdomen is pushed forward, and, again, the muscles are overstretched

    The condition occurs in women in the latter stages of pregnancy, and in men who have a 'paunch'. Some individuals are unfortunate enough to develop both a round and hollow back, a condition known as kypholordosis.

  4. Slipped disc - Is a very painful condition that occurs when ruptured disc material presses on the nerve roots or the spinal cord.

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