Individuals believe that maintaining a straight/flat back is healthy. However, the back is made up of natural curves that allow flexibility and optimal movement. If there is a lack of these curves, it can lead to spine issues, discomfort, and pain. A common problem to develop from a spine lacking natural curvature is abnormal kyphosis. This is when the natural curve in the thoracic spine – mid-back or lumbar spine – low back disappears, which results in a flat back. Restoring the curvature can be challenging, as flatback syndrome requires chiropractic adjustments to gently shift and realign the spine back into a healthy curve and re-train the spine to maintain the curve.
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Causes of Flat Back Syndrome
Flatback syndrome is usually a result of muscle tightness in the lower back muscles, specifically in the psoas muscle. Or it could be degenerative disc disease, where the cartilage supporting the spine begins to weaken. Other causes include arthritis and osteoporosis. Practicing unhealthy posture habits can worsen these conditions, speeding up the loss of the spine’s curvature. Loss of spinal curvature does not occur rapidly, as the body will begin to present with symptoms. The following symptoms could be an indication:
- Fatigue when trying to stand upright
- Balance problems
- Restricted mobility
- Muscle spasms
- Chronic low back pain
- Thigh pain
- Groin pain
- Disc herniation
Back pain and problems with balance are the earliest warning signs of flatback syndrome.
Flatback symptoms usually get worse as the day progresses, with a sense of fatigue and increasing difficulty in standing upright. Individuals tend to flex or bend their hips and knees to get into an upright position. This can become an exhausting process as the day progresses. Individuals can also have symptoms of sciatica and/or spinal stenosis with leg pain and weakness that gets worse when walking. Neck and upper back pain can begin to present while straining to align themselves. The symptoms become disabling, often requiring pain medications that limit the individual’s ability to perform daily activities.
A chiropractor must determine the severity of the deviation through a thorough assessment and examination. This shows the loss of curvature to help a chiropractor plan a realignment/remodeling adjustment schedule. Restoring a natural kyphosis is done through a combination of adjustments and bracing. Scheduled spinal adjustments will realign and shift the vertebrae back to neutral, while a back brace supports and helps prevent any deviation. Stretching and exercising relevant muscle groups is also part of a chiropractic treatment plan. An example is core exercises for strengthening the muscles supporting the spine.
Because the body is so complex and dynamic, there is no perfect fit when it comes to diet, exercise, or a combination. Fad diets typically recommend that individuals adhere to the same eating guidelines, indicating they will reach an expected result like fat loss. These diets work because they focus on a simple reduction in calorie intake, especially processed and fast foods. The problem is that some of these fad diets can restrict critical nutrients that negatively affect an individual’s health. More information about an individual’s body and how it works is an excellent resource for improving body composition and overall health. Personalized nutrition is an innovative and favorable approach to preventing and treating obesity and related conditions. This approach identifies:
- Genetic markers
- Dietary patterns
Educated recommendations can be made based on these factors.
Drabsch, Theresa, and Christina Holzapfel. “A Scientific Perspective of Personalised Gene-Based Dietary Recommendations for Weight Management.” Nutrients vol. 11,3 617. 14 Mar. 2019, doi:10.3390/nu11030617
Farcy, J P, and F J Schwab. “Management of flatback and related kyphotic decompensation syndromes.” Spine vol. 22,20 (1997): 2452-7. doi:10.1097/00007632-199710150-00025
Lee, Chang-Hyun, et al. “‘Lumbar Degenerative Kyphosis’ Is Not Byword for Degenerative Sagittal Imbalance: Time to Replace a Misconception.” Journal of Korean Neurosurgical Society vol. 60,2 (2017): 125-129. doi:10.3340/jkns.2016.0607.001
Lu, Daniel C, and Dean Chou. “Flatback syndrome.” Neurosurgery clinics of North America vol. 18,2 (2007): 289-94. doi:10.1016/j.nec.2007.01.007
Wiggins, Gregory C et al. “Management of iatrogenic flat-back syndrome.” Neurosurgical focus vol. 15,3 E8. 15 Sep. 2003, doi:10.3171/foc.2003.15.3.8
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