Background Whether differences exist in male and female lumbar lordosis has been debated by researchers who are divided as to the nature of variations in the spinal curve, their origin, reasoning, and implications from a morphological, functional and evolutionary perspective. Evaluation of the spinal curvature is constructive in understanding the evolution of the spine, as well as its pathology, planning of surgical procedures, monitoring its progression and treatment of spinal deformities. The aim of the current study was to revisit the nature of lumbar curve in males and females. Methods Our new automated method uses CT imaging of the spine to measure lumbar curvature in males and females. The curves extracted from 158 individuals were based on the spinal canal, thus avoiding traditional pitfalls of using bone features for curve estimation. The model analysis was carried out on the entire curve, whereby both local and global descriptors were examined in a single framework. Six parameters were calculated: segment length, curve length, curvedness, lordosis peak location, lordosis cranial peak height, and lordosis caudal peak height. Principal Findings Compared to males, the female spine manifested a statistically significant greater curvature, a caudally located lordotic peak, and greater cranial peak height. As caudal peak height is similar for males and females, the illusion of deeper lordosis among females is due partially to the fact that the upper part of the female lumbar curve is positioned more dorsally (more backwardly inclined). Conclusions Males and females manifest different lumbar curve shape, yet similar amount of inward curving (lordosis). The morphological characteristics of the female spine were probably developed to reduce stress on the vertebral elements during pregnancy and nursing.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This project was financed by the Israel Science Foundation (Grant # 1397/08), the Dan David Foundation, and the Tassia and Dr. Joseph Meychan Chair for the History and Philosophy of Medicine (Tel Aviv University).
© 2015 Hay et al.
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