Sleeping with scoliosis

Getting a good night’s sleep can be a challenge when you suffer from scoliosis (a sideways curvature of the spine). Some scoliosis patients are kept awake at night by the pain and discomfort that stems from their condition, while others simply struggle to find a comfortable sleeping position. Whatever the reason, scoliosis can often make it very difficult to nod off! With that in mind, we at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic would like to share a few tips that we hope will help sleep-deprived scoliosis sufferers to rest a little more peacefully tonight:

1. Get the right mattress.

It’s important (even if you don’t suffer from scoliosis) to find a mattress that provides adequate support for your body while still providing a good level of comfort. You should ideally invest in a medium-to-firm mattress that doesn’t give too much when you lie down on it; if you use a mattress topper for extra comfort, try not to go any thicker than 2 or 3 inches as this will negate the support you’re getting from the mattress itself.

2. Don’t use too many pillows.

Resting your head on a large stack of pillows might sound inviting, but elevating your head too far off the mattress can put a lot of strain on your neck and upper spine. For this reason, it’s better to stick with a single pillow that’s not too thick. That being said, those extra pillows can still come in handy: try using them for extra support in spots where your scoliosis is particularly painful / uncomfortable.

3. Find the right sleeping position.

It’s well worth taking the time to work out which sleeping position suits you best. Most people sleep on their side, although you may find that sleeping on your back is more comfortable as this spreads your body weight evenly across a larger surface. Sleeping on your front may not be such a good idea as this position forces your back and neck into a slightly unnatural position.

4. Take painkillers if needed (but speak to your doctor first).

While we don’t recommend becoming dependent on pain medication if you can possibly avoid it, you may find that certain low-level painkillers help you to nod off a little more easily at night. Visit your GP to discuss the best course of pain relief for your condition, especially if the pain is so severe that it is consistently keeping you awake at night.

5. Practice good sleep hygiene.

There are lots of bad habits that can make it harder to fall asleep (in addition to reducing the quality of what sleep you do get). These habits may well be exacerbating the difficulties your scoliosis is causing you, so here are a few rules that you should try to follow:
  • Stop looking at screens (your TV, your smartphone, etc.) at least 30 minutes before going to bed.
  • Don’t drink caffeine or eat foods that trigger indigestion too close to bedtime.
  • Get lots of exercise during the day.
  • Try to go to bed at approximately the same time every night.
Here at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic, we aim to address every aspect of your condition via our unique ScolioGold treatment programme. Contact us today to arrange a consultation.

People living with scoliosis

Just because you’ve been diagnosed with scoliosis, that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to change the way you live. Even individuals with fairly pronounced spinal curves can enjoy a high quality of life as long as their condition is treated and their symptoms properly managed. If you’re concerned about the challenges that come with a curved spine, perhaps we can help to reassure you. Here are the stories of three people who know what living with scoliosis is really like – all of them have undergone treatment here at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic in London and their experiences hopefully demonstrate that, as problematic as this condition can be, it doesn’t have to drastically alter your life!  

Phoebe Kaniewska

15 years old // London Phoebe was diagnosed with scoliosis as a pre-teen. When her mother noticed that her hips looked uneven, she went to the GP and – after being referred to a specialist – was told she had a 30-degree curve in her spine. The doctor thought she had finished growing, but when she returned a year later she had grown a lot more, and this had caused her scoliosis to progress by 15%. Phoebe was told that spinal fusion surgery would reduce the visibility of her curves, but as she herself states in the video below, she “wasn’t worried about anything to do with looks”. She was, however, concerned about the pain that she experiencing; it wasn’t too bad to begin with, occurring only when she bent down, but that occasional pain gradually progressed until was a big part of Phoebe’s life. She was also concerned about the effect that scoliosis might have on some of her favourite activities – would her spinal curve limit her ability to row and run?

Phoebe came to the Scoliosis SOS Clinic for treatment and was pleased to find her pain beginning to recede. We are pleased to report that she is still a keen runner and rower, and when she does experience pain/tension as a result of her scoliosis, she finds that massage and Kinesio tape are great for relieving these symptoms.  

Rowan Cottee

22 years old // Essex Rowan first visited our clinic in 2012. He works as an IT technician, and thus spends a lot of time sitting at a desk. This can be bad for anybody’s posture, but when you already have a curved spine, full-time desk work can be very problematic indeed.

For Rowan, one of the most important parts of living with scoliosis is concentrating on his posture. The treatment he received here at Scoliosis SOS made him a lot more aware of his posture, and he now makes sure to sit/stand up as straight as possible wherever he is. He returns to our clinic regularly to make sure he doesn’t slip into any bad habits, and we’ve taught him a number of stretches and exercises to help him relieve aches and pains when they occur.  

Carol Inskipp

68 years old // Cambridgeshire Carol is a very enthusiastic hiker who frequently goes on treks in other parts of the world. She got in touch with Scoliosis SOS because she was suffering from what she describes as “conspicuous” scoliosis with “a lot of pain”. Scoliosis posed a number of problems for Carol, not least the possibility that she might have to hang up her walking boots. Her doctor informed her that, while she’d had a good run, it would not be a good idea for her to carry on putting stress on her body by walking miles and miles over rough terrain. Here’s what she had to say after completing a treatment course at our clinic:

“My pain disappeared, my back looked much better. Friends said so, family said so…the pain’s gone.”

When the above video was filmed, Carol had recently returned from a trek to Nepal, where she camped and used tree branches to help with her stretches! Worried that scoliosis will have a big impact on your life? Contact Scoliosis SOS today to discuss your condition and arrange a consultation.
Scoliosis X-Rays
 
Since scoliosis cannot be ‘cured’ in the true sense of that word, treatment efforts tend instead to focus on managing the condition. The key aims of scoliosis management are as follows:
  • Stop the patient’s spinal curve from progressing any further
  • Reduce the Cobb angle (i.e. the severity of the curve) if possible
  • Treat symptoms such as back pain, reduced flexibility, etc.
In this post, we will describe some of the most commonly-used scoliosis management strategies to give you an idea of how this condition can be dealt with.

Observation

When diagnosing a patient with scoliosis, a doctor may initially recommend that no treatment be undertaken at all. This is particularly common when the patient is a child (and thus still growing) and when the angle of the curvature is quite mild. In lieu of immediate treatment, the patient’s spine will be observed over time so as to find out whether the curve is getting better, getting worse, or staying where it is. This will then allow the medical practitioner to select the best course of corrective action to manage the patient’s scoliosis (if any).

Treating the Symptoms

Even if the patient’s spinal curve is not being directly treated, it may still be necessary to treat certain symptoms that may be negatively affecting their quality of life. Common treatments include:
  • Pain medication – Painkillers of various strengths may be prescribed to help the patient cope with any pain they are experiencing as a result of their scoliosis.
  • Physical therapy – Physiotherapy and exercise can help scoliosis sufferers to retain their flexibility and mobility. Physiotherapy-based programmes can also constitute an effective treatment for the scoliosis itself (see below).

Bracing

Scoliosis patients sometimes have to wear a rigid plastic brace in order to help manage the condition. This brace doesn’t reverse the progression of the spinal curvature, but it can arrest progression so that the curve doesn’t get any worse.
 
Scoliosis braces are typically worn for 23 hours per day and should only be removed when bathing/showering. This, of course, is a fairly invasive and irritating form of scoliosis management, that most patients would prefer to avoid if possible. Click here for more information on bracing.

Surgery

If the patient’s spinal curve has progressed beyond a certain point (usually 40-50 degrees, also the threshold is different in different parts of the world), scoliosis management may no longer be a viable option and they may have to go in for spinal fusion surgery. During this procedure, general anaesthetic is used to keep the patient unconscious while the surgical team uses small hooks/screws to correct the curve and effectively fix the spine in place. Click here to learn more about spinal fusion surgery.

Physical Therapy

Wondering how we can help you manage your scoliosis? As noted above, physiotherapy can help to minimise the impact of scoliosis on the patient’s flexibility/mobility. However, exercise-based treatment programmes have also been shown to:
There are many different exercise-based treatment routes available to scoliosis patients, some of which are more effective than others. Here at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic, we treat patients via a regime called the ScolioGold method, which combines a number of proven non-surgical techniques into one programme that addresses every different aspect of the condition in question. Once the 4-week course is completed, patients can practice the exercises they’ve learned at home to continue to manage the progression of their scoliosis. 
 
Curvy Girls is an international support group for young girls with scoliosis. Leah Stoltz from New York started the group after sitting in on a meeting of adult scoliosis sufferers and deciding that there ought to be a similar support network exclusively for under-18s. Leah very kindly agreed to answer some questions from the Scoliosis SOS team – scroll down to read the interview in full.
Curvy Girls Scoliosis Support Group
So, Leah – for those who may not know, what kind of support does Curvy Girls provide for scoliosis sufferers?
Curvy Girls provides peer support to young girls dealing with scoliosis. What’s awesome about our meetings – and the reason our organisation is so successful – is that we’re entirely teen-run. When girls hold their groups, it’s only girls in the meetings, so it’s a safe and comfortable environment.
What treatment(s) have you undergone for your own spinal curve?
I wore a Boston brace for two and a half years, and then had spinal fusion surgery (T5-L4).
Were you pleased with the results?
I was very pleased with the outcome of my surgery and I try to talk about it as much as possible. Something I’ve noticed a lot is that you really only hear (and see on social media) scary or worrisome stories of surgeries not going well. For the innumerable number of cases that go well, they don’t necessarily need to talk about it as much because it was easier to manage. That’s one of the reasons I try to talk about my story so much: to make surgery less scary for those who are about to undergo it.
You live in the USA – how challenging is it to access effective scoliosis treatment in America today?
I grew up and still reside in New York, so for me it was very easy to get access to bracing and surgery, as well as to surgeons who specialise in scoliosis. On the other hand, curvy girls who live in more remote areas of the US might have to travel great distances to receive care. 
When doing research for our book, Straight Talk with the Curvy Girls, we found out that Europe is way ahead of the US when it comes to conservative care – scoliosis-specific exercises and 3D bracing. In 2012, there was only one place in the whole of the US that offered this treatment, and for most of us it was hours away by plane. I am proud to say that, through the advocacy of Curvy Girls, families in the US now have greater access to these conservative care options.
What is the single most important piece of advice you’d give a young person who’s just been diagnosed with scoliosis?
Talk about how you’re feeling! Don’t keep it bundled inside. Find support – a trusted friend, a parent, a Curvy Girl. Curvy Girls has support groups all over the world, as well as an online forum, Instagram page, Facebook group, book…there are so many ways to feel supported and to talk with other girls who are going through what you are going through (or who have already been through the same things).
For the benefit of the friends and families of scoliosis sufferers, could you shine a little bit of light on the thoughts and emotions of someone who’s going through scoliosis?
A scoliosis diagnosis is something that just happens to us; we feel like we don’t have control over it, and sometimes it can feel like there’s no end in sight. We’re told to wear the brace, which is a very passive activity, and on top of that we’re not even sure it will definitely help! And then sometimes we’re told to wear the brace under the threat of surgery, which is a terrifying idea. I wasn’t fortunate enough to know about the Schroth method prior to my surgery, but what I love about it is that it gives us a bit more control over a situation that can feel like it’s out of our hands.
We understand you’re looking for a new UK representative – what does this role entail, and what sort of person are you looking for?
Yes we are! The best Curvy Girls leader is one who has the desire to help others as well as themselves. She should not only want to give support, but be open to asking for and receiving it when she needs it as well. Girls with scoliosis between the ages of 11 and 18 are eligible. We provide all the support necessary to become a CG leader. If you’re open to learning, we’re open to teaching! Application details here.
What’s next for Curvy Girls? What are the Foundation’s aims for the future?
World domination! In all seriousness, we just want to make sure there’s support for girls wherever they are. My personal goal is that support should be offered in tandem with any diagnosis, brace, or surgery consultation. It’s easy to just focus on treating the physical symptoms of scoliosis, but there’s also an emotional component that’s far too frequently ignored. Curvy Girls is the emotional brace for scoliosis!
Visit www.curvygirlsscoliosis.com for more information about the Curvy Girls Scoliosis Foundation, or click here to learn about the exercise-based scoliosis treatment courses we provide here at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic in London, England.
Scoliosis sufferer in the British army
If it is your ambition to join the British Army, you may be concerned about whether your curved spine will scupper your chances of achieving this goal. Today, we’d like to put your fears to rest.

Army Entry Requirements

The British Army’s entry requirements state that all would-be soldiers looking to join a UOTC (University Officers’ Training Corps) must satisfy the Army’s medical requirements. Certain conditions – such as deafness, blindness, and the absence of one or more limbs – are deemed ‘immediate barriers’, meaning that anyone with these conditions is automatically disqualified from entry into a UOTC. The rules are more flexible for other conditions; for example, if you have ever suffered from diseases like malaria, pneumonia, heart disease, or tuberculosis, this may disqualify you from signing up, but the final decision will depend on the details of your specific case.
Back pain, in addition to being a common symptom of scoliosis, is one of the factors that can potentially disqualify a person from entering the British Army. However, it’s worth noting that none of the effects of scoliosis are immediate barriers, and generally speaking, your spinal curve should only keep you from joining the Army if it has a significant effect on your mobility and/or your overall health.

Matthew’s Story

24-year-old Matthew Gilson from Somerset wanted to join the British Armed Forces, but he feared that this ambition would have to be laid to rest when he was diagnosed with scoliosis. He found himself suffering from intense back pain, and this forced him to put his demanding training regime on hold for a while.
Scoliosis sufferer Matthew from Wells
However, after completing a 4-week ScolioGold treatment course here at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic, Matthew’s pain levels had receded massively, and his posture was better as well. This improvement allowed him to re-apply for the Army and continue following his dream of serving in the military.
If you require scoliosis treatment, please contact Scoliosis SOS today to find out how our non-surgical treatment courses may be able to help you.