Flat Back Syndrome, also called Flatback Syndrome, refers to a spinal condition where curvature of the spine in the lower back appears flattened. This deformity leads to misalignment and gives the appearance of a straight spine.
In a healthy spine, the spinal column has a special ‘S’ shape, where the upper portion of the spine, corresponding to the neck, presents a slight inward (forward) curvature, the mid or thoracic spine presents an outward curvature, and the lower or lumbar spine presents another inward curvature. In people with Flat Back Syndrome, this latter curvature is lessened to certain degrees, making the back appear flat.
Flat Back Syndrome Causes
One of the most common causes of this syndrome can be attributed to degenerative changes in the spine, namely degeneration of the spinal discs. Intervertebral spinal discs mainly play the role of shock absorbers for the spine, as they are made out of two layers.
The inner layer is primarily made out of a gel-like substance, while the outer layer comprises of a harder shell meant to protect the inner core. With age, the core loses water, and as such the disc loses height and changes in shape.
In addition to loss of shock absorbing capabilities, degenerated lumbar spine discs can also play a role in altering the shape of the spine, potentially leading to a flattening of the lower spine.
Another cause of Flat Back Syndrome is that of Ankylosing Spondylitis, an inflammatory condition of the spine that starts in the lower back. AS can cause changes to the spine, where some vertebrae may fuse with one another, reducing flexibility and altering the shape of the spine, where the lower back can become flat.
Compression fractures at the level of one or more vertebrae can also lead to this syndrome. As we age, bone composition tends to change and become weaker, increasing the chances of fractures to appear. A compression fracture in the back tends to occur when too much stress is placed on already weakened spinal bones, causing them to crack, which leads to a loss of height in the spine, as well as a change in shape.
Lastly, Flat Back Syndrome can occur as a side effect or aftermath of certain spinal procedures, such as spine surgery, which includes a laminectomy, spinal fusion, or procedures that aim to correct other postural disorders such as scoliosis, kyohosis, or lumbar lordosis.
The onset of Flat Back Syndrome tends to take place gradually over time, and as such symptoms may not be immediately noticeable. Once the condition does start to affect a person, some of the symptoms that appear tend to include:
- Altered posture, that presents itself as an exaggerated outward spinal curvature in the cervical spine, as well as a change in the alignment of the pelvis, hips and knees, where these structures have to compensate for the loss of lumbar curvature.
- Difficulty holding one’s body upright.
- Pain, stiffness and weakness in the back, hips and legs, which can also affect the muscles in these regions.
- Changes in gait.
- Development of other spinal conditions such as spinal stenosis, nerve pinching, or sciatica.
Before proceeding to the treatment phase, it is important to determine whether or not these symptoms are indeed caused by a flat back, or a different condition, as symptoms for Flat Back Syndrome can sometimes overlap with other spinal conditions. Establishing the correct diagnosis helps to also determine the correct path for treatment.
If the diagnosis for Flat Back Syndrome has been confirmed, the patient can typically choose from one or more of the following treatment options:
- Physical therapy to help improve the flexibility and mobility of the spine, and to assist with correction of any changes in gait or posture.
- Pain medications can be administered to temporarily reduce inflammation and pain caused by this condition.
- Exercising and stretching are also recommended (if possible). They can help keep the spine in shape and prevent weakening of the muscles that help support it.
- In some extreme cases where more conservative treatment options have failed to produce the desired result, surgical intervention may be considered.
A Non-Invasive Approach
Alternatively, there is now an innovative way to address the problems brought on by a flat back with the help of an orthopaedic device that has been designed by spinal specialists to help restore the natural shape and curvature of the spine by targeting the root cause of the problem. That device is called the Spinal Backrack, a revolution in spine care treatments, that can easily be used from home.