Hyper-Lordosis and Lower Back Pain

from stronglifts.com

from stronglifts.com

A lot of my clients with low back problems have some form of hyperlordosis. Lordosis is the normal, slight curve in the low back, so hyper-lordosis means there is too much curvature.

Look at the image here (borrowed from stronglifts.com, who have some good thoughts on the topic).

But before I get any deeper into exploring the topic, a few words of warning: I’m saying a lot of people have hyperlordosis, and a lot of people have low back pain. I’m NOT saying that hyperlordosis automatically leads to low back pain. In my opinion, a fixed position of the lumbars and insufficient movement might cause problems in the lumbar spine, and these could cause pain. Low back pain is difficult to understand because there are so many different factors that contribute to the problem–the biggest factor is your brain.

If people have told you that your pelvis is tilted the wrong way, or one of your legs is a quarter inch too long, please read: “Your Back is Not Out and Your Leg Length is Fine”.  If you suffer from low back pain, buy this Ebook: “Save Yourself From Low Back Pain!”

(No, Paul Ingraham doesn’t pay me for promoting his work. I promote it because more people need to read it.)

Here’s what I know about hyperlordosis: Excessive curvature in the low back is often caused by short hipflexor muscles. They attach on the front of your lumbar (low back) spine and the front of the pelvis, and go to the front of the thigh. Sitting causes them to get shorter, since our bodies adapt to what we are doing. Short hipflexors, especially the psoas, pull on the front of the spine, causing it to bend too much (as explained in a short video). Add pressure from heavy lifting, or just the regular pounding of high-impact workouts, and the discs can start bulging out or even herniating.


In the MRI image you see this happening between L5 and S1, a common area of disc herniation. Check out this website for more information!

I made up a quick test: Try this video to check your own hipflexors. In my case, it’s not a problem, I’m flexible enough.

You can also try to just lie flat on your back and feel under your lower back. When your legs are out straight, you normally have a light curve there. Try pushing your back completely into the floor. Does it work? If yes, you have not only good, elastic hipflexor muscles, you also have a strong core. I can’t do it, so I’ll have to work harder on strengthening my low abs.

Try it again, with your knees bent, so your feet are on the floor. Push your low back into the floor, engaging your low abs like this. If you still don’t get your lower spine to touch the floor, you have very short hipflexors or a another problem that makes your spine hard to move. Please tell me about it.

Finally, here is a whole collection of videos with exercises for a healthy back and stable, strong core. Let me know how you like them!

I’d be grateful about comments, feedback, and of course happy to answer any question.

10 thoughts on “Hyper-Lordosis and Lower Back Pain

  1. Pingback: Why blog? Does it help get more clients? « Lu Mueller-Kaul

  2. Thanks for the info Lu, would really appreciate if you could shed some light on Hyperlordosis rehabilitation, as I know it coz when I stand straight the gap is enough to fit a whole hand. I have been starting to foam roll the side waist/lower back, strengthening the abs and glutes and hammies, also to keep on stretching the hip flexors. Any other subtle/necessary recommendations can you provide that will help me relieve the low back pain as I feel it even when sitting/doing yoga (cobra) moves. A little back bend might feel a little, mostly on the left waist.

      • Thank you for the tips! I have been foam rolling (cheap way to massage!) however the waist/low back seem to feel tense everytime after almost a year of rolling. I tried to do plow pose to stretch the back and also butterfly/lunge for hip flexor. Just not sure how i can reduce the tension and pressure on the low back.

  3. Yes, a lot of my clients use foamrollers, and that’s great. It’s still different to work with a therapist, but you can also learn great self-massage tips from http://saveyourself.ca/tutorials/tutorials.php
    Hands can do much more detailed work, and skilled hands, forearms, elbows work with the feedback they get from the tissue.

    Often when getting massages is too expensive (and I know it can get VERY expensive) it’s worth it to find a good chair massage therapist at places like Whole Foods. Even just ten minutes once a week can make a lot of difference. That doesn’t cost more than $20, if you look at other places, even less.

    Butterfly doesn’t do much to stretch the hip flexor, and even lunges have to be done very carefully. It would be best if you teach yourself “Crescent Pose” (it’s in my videos, but there’s also a post on the blog here). http://lumuellerkaul.com/2012/02/22/try-crescent-instead-of-warrior-i/

    Most important in hip flexor stretches is to tuck the pelvis under, as if you wanted to tuck a tail between your legs. Some people with a lot of tightness in the lower back can’t do that movement.

    You’ll know whether you can do it if you bend the knees when standing, put both hands into your lower back, try to tuck, and you’ll know that it’s working when you feel your low back lengthening.

    If it’s almost impossible, even with your knees bent, try it leaning against the wall instead, with the knees bent. Try to touch the low back against the wall.

    The rolling bridges are my favorite exercise to get awareness into that area.

    You can also look around for good physical therapists. Read reviews, and only decide for one who does manual therapy.

    • Thank you very very much for the detailed explanations and recommendations. Yes unless i “swirl” the pelvis under my low back cant touch the wall even with ankle/buttocks/ shoulders and back of the head touching the wall. Ill be sure to look over your other videos to work on lengthening the hip flexors and low back, and hipe you dont mind me droppin you another question if im stuck! Thank you again! 😀

  4. Hi Lu I also wanted to know your thoughts on foam rolling the lower back. As I mentioned it was always tight and aching due to the hyperlordosis, however once after rolling on the waist/lower back area on a sweet spot, when i sleep and woke up the next day it felt like a pulled/overstretched muscle. And it has lasted over a week even though i put on votaren gel on it. Have any of your clients experienced this before, or in other areas during foam rolling?

    • Yes, that kind of thing actually happens frequently when people overdo the foamrolling. It can also happen with inexperienced massage therapists who are over-eager to work out “knots” and end up irritating the tissue, in some cases causing micro-tears.

      The problem is that it’s not always easy to find the difference between “good pain” and injury.

      A good therapist’s hands are instruments that have built-in-feedback on how the tissue responds, so injuries should not happen.

      Foamrollers and other massage tools don’t give feedback, that’s why I don’t like them much.

      I’m not saying “don’t foamroll”–but I am saying “be careful, and err on the side of caution”.

      The good news: these kind of injuries are usually harmless and should heal fast. In some cases the state of the whole area is better afterwards.. but IMHO that’s not worth the risk.

      Disclaimer: in the US I’m just licensed as a massage therapist, and even in Germany I could not make a diagnosis on a blog comment. I’m just saying what I consider possible.

      • Thanks for the advice, and appreciate you coming at the issue straight forward. Usually what is the normal “duration” for foam rolling and stretching (yoga poses) for a particular muscle group? and also the “micro-tears” i did during foam rolling is still there after 2 weeks, not sure if I should see a doctor.

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