Getting a good night’s rest is extra important for someone going through the rigors of proactive scoliosis treatment, but having an abnormal spinal curvature can make this difficult. As a complex condition, scoliosis takes on different forms. While a typical condition has a curvature that bends to the right, away from the heart, the opposite is true of levoscoliosis, which bends to the left.
Before we delve into sleeping tips and positions for levoscoliosis patients, let’s first explore what determines if a condition is considered typical or atypical.
In the most common form of the condition, scoliosis would develop in an adolescent between the ages of 10 and 18. It would be classified as adolescent idiopathic scoliosis (AIS), meaning there is no known single cause.
AIS accounts for a whopping 80 percent of known diagnosed scoliosis cases in the United States. The other 20 percent are atypical forms of the condition with different causes such as neuromuscular, congenital, or traumatic.
A further indication of an atypical condition involves characteristics of the curvature itself. In order to be considered a structural scoliosis, a curvature would have a Cobb angle measurement of 10+ degrees and include rotation.
The Cobb angle is a measurement taken via X-ray that tells us just how far out of alignment a patient’s spine deviates; it also classifies their condition as mild, moderate, or severe.
Mild scoliosis: Cobb angle measurement of 25 degrees or less
Moderate scoliosis: Cobb angle measurement of 25 to 40 degrees
Severe scoliosis: Cobb angle measurement of 40+ degrees
In typical forms, the curvature bends to the right (dextroscoliosis), but sometimes, the curvature bends to the left (levoscoliosis), towards the heart.
If I see a curvature bend to the left, this is a red flag for me to look for other potential causes. While levoscoliosis can fall under the umbrella of AIS with no known single cause for its development, it can also indicate a different cause in which scoliosis is a secondary complication of another medical issue or condition.Neuromuscular Scoliosis Neuromuscular scoliosis develops when conditions such as cerebral palsy or muscular dystrophy are present. With these, there is an impairment in how the brain communicates with the muscles that support the spine, and this can cause scoliosis to develop.
In congenital scoliosis, the condition develops because of a bone malformation in the vertebrae of the spine that was present at birth. In a healthy spine, the vertebrae are stacked on top of each other like bricks; in congenital scoliosis, one of those vertebrae are triangular in shape, and this causes the spine to slip out of alignment and scoliosis to develop.
This form of the condition is less common, but if a spine experiences a trauma significant enough, it can cause scoliosis to develop.
Also, if there are tumors present that are pressing on the spine, this can push the spine out of alignment.
Once I rule out the above causes of this atypical form of scoliosis, I move forward with active treatment as I would with cases of dextroscoliosis.
Here at the Scoliosis Reduction Center, our approach is conservative and provides patients with access to multiple natural forms of treatment. These different disciplines work together to provide the best possible results, and we are able to apportion each discipline differently throughout treatment as we see how a patient’s spine is responding.We design customized treatment plans that include scoliosis-specific chiropractic, therapy, rehabilitation, and corrective bracing. We also work closely with our patients to provide them with guidance on how to augment our treatment efforts at home, including scoliosis-friendly lifestyle tips.
Sleep is an important aspect of life for anyone, but for someone living with a progressive condition like scoliosis, and especially one who is undergoing active treatment, it’s especially important.
Part of living with scoliosis is figuring out how to navigate its complexities to live the best possible life with the condition; sleep can be a big part of that.
In terms of the condition’s most common form (AIS), pain isn’t generally a big challenge, but depending on the condition’s severity, this can change; for adults, scoliosis of any form can cause a lot of pain and discomfort due to compression of the spine and its surrounding nerves and muscles.
Most commonly, levoscoliosis develops along the lumbar portion of the spine (lower back), but it can also affect the thoracic spine (middle back). When it comes to the best sleep positions for someone with levoscoliosis, these recommendations are the same for other forms of the condition.
Best Sleep Positions for Scoliosis
We all have our preferred sleep position, and once those habits are set, they are difficult to break. For someone living with scoliosis, it’s more than worth it to make the effort to follow recommendations for sleep positions that encourage healthy spinal alignment.
I feel it’s important to say that no sleep position can actually impact a person’s scoliosis on a structural level. Sometimes people think if they have levoscoliosis and sleep on their right side all the time, that this can counteract that left-bending curve, but this is not the case.
While no sleep position can alter the structure of a scoliosis or reduce it, they certainly can lessen discomfort and result in the positive effects of feeling more rested, energetic, and better able to face the rigors of treatment.
In terms of promoting healthy spinal alignment and keeping the spine in a neutral position, sleeping flat on the back is the best sleep position for people with any form of scoliosis.
This position allows for the most even spread of body weight over the body’s widest surface. It keeps the spine in a healthy neutral position and doesn’t involve any unnatural arching of the spine.
Side sleeping seems to be the most common preferred sleep position, and while this isn’t as good as back sleeping for people with scoliosis, it also helps the spine stay in a neutral and straight position.
When the spine is in a neutral position, it puts less pressure on the spinal nerves and provides some relief from scoliosis-related discomfort or pain.
As you can probably guess, stomach sleeping is the worst sleep position for people with levoscoliosis, any form of scoliosis, and people in general.
Stomach sleeping creates an unnatural arch and puts the neck in an unhealthy position. This places extra stress on the spine and can encourage the spine to move into the abnormal curvature, instead of out of it.
Pillows can also help facilitate better sleep for people with scoliosis.
If my patients are having trouble sleeping, we take this seriously and work to find the best possible solution. I understand that even a natural approach to treatment, such as ours, can be intense and rigorous for our patients. They need their sleep, and there are lots of avenues to get there.
One thing I suggest, that often surprises patients, is how helpful a customized pillow can be. Most pillows are a general size, but not everyone has the same body type. I’ll measure a patient to ensure they can find a pillow that is fitted to their body size, back, shoulders, and pelvis.
Getting a customized pillow isn’t difficult and can help in supporting the spine and helping it remain in a healthy alignment during sleep.
It can also sometimes help to strategically place pillows to better support the spine’s curves and help keep it straight during sleep.
For levoscoliosis in the lumbar spine, sometimes a small pillow just below or above the lower back can help provide some extra support. In addition, a cervical pillow that supports the cervical curve of the neck can help with keeping the spine straight.
For levoscoliosis in the thoracic spine, when sleeping on the back, a thin pillow placed under the shoulder blades can sometimes help in distributing pressure. For side-sleepers, often a pillow placed between the legs can bring relief by helping to open up the spinal canal.
Those living with a spinal deformity like scoliosis will have some extra challenges to face. Through undergoing active treatment, they can work towards reducing the abnormal curvature and decreasing related symptoms that accompany it.
Levoscoliosis describes a scoliotic curve that bends to the left, which is an atypical form as most curves bend away from the heart to the right.
With scoliosis, there are a lot of uneven forces at work, which is why our ultimate treatment goal is to restore as much of the spine’s healthy curves as possible; by doing this, we restore the spine’s overall biomechanics.
Being diagnosed with levoscoliosis can feel overwhelming and hopeless, especially for adolescents who have not yet gained a lot of life experience dealing with adversity.
The Scoliosis Reduction Center team is here to help. We take great pride in being able to show our patients that their condition doesn’t have to define them or rob them of their life’s passions.