Flatback is a condition where the lumbar region of the spine loses some of its normal curvature. This is a type of front-to-back imbalance in the spine. Generally, the spine has gentle front-to-back curves working in harmony to keep our center of gravity aligned. When the lumbar area loses this curvature, the center of gravity can be placed too far forward, resulting in flatback syndrome.
In order to stand upright, a patient with flatback syndrome must contract the muscles in the back, and may need to flex at the hips and knees. Overtime, this results in severe pain.
Common symptoms include:
- Difficulty standing upright
- Chronic back pain
- Difficulty performing daily tasks
There are several possible causes of flatback syndrome. Degenerative disc disease, compression fractures, or ankylosing spondylitis could be to blame. It’s also possible to develop flatback syndrome after a surgery such as laminectomy or a spinal fusion of the lumbar region.
At your appointment, your doctor will likely order an X-ray, MRI, or CAT scan to determine the exact lack of curvature in the spine.
Generally, surgery is not required. Symptoms may be managed with physical therapy, gait and posture training, exercise, and pain medication.
Should problems persist after nonsurgical options have been explored, if structural problems occur, or if the misalignment is severe, surgery may be required to provide pain relief, correct the spine, and prevent the misalignment from worsening.
During surgery, part of the bone will be removed from the affected region of the spine. The bones will then be realigned and fused together using screws and rods to provide stability. With a fusion procedure, two or more bones will be fused together to form one solid bone.