The spine has to support every other part of the body. When viewed from the side, it has normal curves that strengthen it and keep the weight of other body parts in balance. But sometimes, those curves can become exaggerated. When that happens in the lower back, it’s called lumbar lordosis, also known as swayback.
Lordosis can affect anyone and has more than a few causes, including excess weight and osteoporosis. In our practice, we’re most likely to see it in dancers.
The problem with dance class
Mastering dance generates a lot of repetitive stress that can weaken the core and beat up the lumbar spine. It also contracts the extender muscles and stretches the flexors, just the opposite of everyday movement. Imagine bending over backwards to pick something up.
Serious dancers work out a lot, as much as five hours each day. They have large and powerful glutes, quads and hamstrings. But, unless they are careful to add strength training to the routine, the core can weaken. Without a strong core to hold everything together, the lumbar can collapse into lordosis.
Typically we see swayback in dancers who started training very young and have stayed with it for years. Lower back pain is the most common presentation. Although the pain can show up in other places, swayback often produces a “right here” kind of pain, focused in one particular spot.
Chiropractic can help
Using Active Release Techniques, ART, the chiropractor can increase mobility, loosen tight tissues and mitigate the pain. Over a course of treatments, we work on the whole body – hips, flexors, extenders, shoulders and knees. The goal is to get everything back to neutral as the dancer works on core strength.
The pain gets better almost immediately, which is a blessing and a curse. Feeling better, they’re tempted to go right back to dance class and all the bad habits that led to the trouble in the first place. They come back when the pain comes back, a few weeks later.
Prevention: it’s all about core strength
Swayback won’t go away unless the dancer modifies the workout, correcting bad habits and adding strength training. We show them a pathway, teaching them exercises custom-tailored for each dancer’s unique needs. In some cases, we recommend physical therapy to both strengthen the core and learn a routine they can continue afterwards. Then it’s a matter of sticking with it, once the exercises have been learned. Those who are motivated do well, long term.
If it goes untreated long enough, it will become permanent. Lordosis can also set up stress fractures in the vertebrae. So, prevention is critical, with healthy workouts and core strengthening. Starting early and continuing throughout the career will help the dancer stay ahead of the curve.