Functional Scoliosis, How You Sleep, and Why You're Hurting

Functional Scoliosis, How You Sleep, and Why You're Hurting

If your spine is out of alignment, then typically it was from one of the following:
  • You slept on your side for an extended period of time.
  • You were born with scoliosis.
  • You had a car accident or an accident causing your structure to end up this way.
  • You slouch over a desk all day.
I have had personal experience with two of these. I slept on my side for an extended period of time and I got into a pretty bad car accident which threw me out of alignment.

Related: Improve Sleep Quality and Optimize Body Composition

I didn't realize this until I did a photo shoot and took a corrective exercise specialist certification. I looked at the imbalances in my corrective exercise book and found out I have had damn near every one of them. Only mine wasn't reoccurring everyday pains. They would come and go.

I read a book called the Vital Glutes and found out about functional scoliosis. I am slowly starting to fix it.

Have you ever had any of these areas in your body cause you pain?

Do you sleep on your side?

If so, this article might make you think twice about your sleeping patterns and give you an explanation for why you may have tweaked your back or have a pain in your neck.

My Functional Scoliosis Battle

In this picture, you can notice my shoulder on my left side sat way higher than on my right side. I slept on my left side with the same pillows in the same bed for years.

As I continued to exercise, I would get bigger, and tighter. Then I would tweak my back or have some nagging pain and never understand why I was hurt.

I was doing everything right. My form was fine. My body's mechanics were out of whack from sleeping, a car wreck, and not focusing on staying limber and mobile.

Will it ever be 100% fixed? Probably not. But what it has taught me is to stay stretching and mobile. don't let your body get too tight and try to strengthen the weakened inhibited muscles and stretch the tight overactive muscles.

I know you may be thinking. Really this guy thinks sleeping on my side will do that to me? Well I stuffed my face in my pillow and look at how crooked my nose is?

It is something that we often overlook when we are feeling these reoccurring aches and pains daily. If we are in fixed positions for hours at a time they will eventually affect us.

Here are some pictures of sleeping on your side and how they could affect the curvature of your spine.
Sleeping on Your Side
As you can see if you sleep on your side, it could potentially cause this. Soft tissue tightens after 20 minutes of being in a fixed position. (That is if it is not damaged tissue, a tissue that's damaged or stress could be even faster at getting tight). It could also give you that kink in your neck.

Sleeping on your stomach can put your lumbar spine into excessive extension causing distress. It can also misalign your pelvis.

Functional Scoliosis and Knee Pain

Do you have a knee that tries to go inward everytime you lunge or do single leg movements? Do you cross your legs frequently? Do you have knee pain? Hmmm?

A weakened underactive glute medius and an overactive tensor fascia latae can cause the knees to go valgus during the lunge.

To find the proper way for your body type to be sleeping at night is important for you to stop aching and having pain, and numbness. I hear people always say, "Well that's uncomfortable for me to sleep on my back. Or when I first tried it I would end up back in the same position." I understand, I had to go through the same process.

When we first start anything out of habit for the first time it seems uncomfortable. Remember, soft tissue tightens after 20 minutes and if a muscle is tight, it is more likely to be more contracted at rest than a loosened muscle. I always ask clients how they sleep, it tells me exactly where they are tight at, and what areas we need to stretch and what areas we need to strengthen.

So what is the simplest way to break your habitual side or belly sleeping? Stretching before bed. Stretch the tight areas in your body. It will still be somewhat uncomfortable still, but stretching will at least allow the body to get some of those overactive muscles out of their tightened state.


What is the Best Way to Sleep?

Sleeping on your back is best. Side is second best. what's most important is trying to align your spine. We don't want to create any kinks. Misalignment at night will create pain in the morning.

Remember the saying, "He woke up on the wrong side of the bed??" Well, this may actually have some meaning to it! These sayings that were said for years sometimes do have meaning behind them.

We have all slept wrong a time or two and had that irritating kink in our necks. Depending on the body type and weight of the individual will determine what position is better. The side is more complex to stay straight than being on the back.

The type of bed will also determine how easy it will be to stay in your fixed position. We all toss and turn at night. That's inevitable. Typically if your partner sleeps on the right side of the bed, you will turn to your left. The body wants to stay away from their carbon dioxide.

So the next time you deadlift and kink your back, think about your sleeping patterns and where you are hurt. It won't be the tight muscle that gets pulled or tweaked, it will be the overstretched one.

If you deadlift and tweak your low back on your left side. I would say... "Hmm, I bet you either sleep on your left side or on your stomach with your right leg hiked up." I have had people say, "how did you know that?" How you sleep and what you do for a living or what hobbies you do in your free time will show me what I should look for in keeping you healthy and pain free.

Pay attention to your body and pain signals. Do not ignore them with NSAIDS and ice. Pay attention to when it comes on and think about the details.

Try to be very observant of your hobbies and actions that are causing you pain. Write it down even! It may be something that you may have never thought would make a difference. I will Bullet point a couple of freebies for you.
  • Medial knee pain - Side sleeping, crossing your legs, tight illiopsoas from sitting, improper squat form.
  • Tension headache - Chewing gum on 1 side, looking at a TV or computer screen with a forward head posture for too long, text neck (texting with your head down all day), driving with your head too far away from the seat.
  • Shoulder pain - Elevating the shoulder up when reaching for things, hiking up the shoulder for writing , eating, texting, sleeping with your shoulder hiked up under the pillow, driving with one arm elevated, your desk being set too high at work, sewing.
  • Lower back pain - Side sleeping with leg hiked up and the other leg straight, sitting on a wallet on 1 side, constant twisting at a job, golfing without proper mobility, sleeping on your back without proper support under your knees or low back, sitting at a desk all day (tight psoas).
These are just a few and the list goes on. If this article really interests you, check out the Alexander technique. These are the things our grandparents would say to us that we thought were dumb and them just nagging us, but they were actually trying to help. A few.
  • Sit up straight
  • Bring your food to you not you to the food
  • Stand up straight
  • Hold up your chest
I'm sure there are many more, but you see where I'm going with this. I hope this can open some of your eyes to some of the nagging pains that we spend numerous amounts of money on and time doing things for, but get no relief. Have a nagging pain? Share in the comments and let's see if we can figure it out!

Dynamically stretching and proper warm-ups are crucial for injury prevention.

Many trainers/coaches/athletes say static stretching is bad before a workout. I would highly disagree, if you do not know how to dynamically stretch for a warm-up. Also, there is something called reciprocal inhibition.

Reciprocal inhibition is when one muscle contracts, its opposing muscle relaxes. If one side of the body is too tight (take the hip flexors for example) that means that its opposing muscle (let's keep it simple and say the butt muscles) cannot contract properly. If a muscle is in an overstretched position it is not going to be able to produce the same force as it would if it wasn't overstretched.

When the primer movers are in an overstretched position and cannot fire properly, synergistic dominance can take place. Synergistic dominance is when the smaller muscles that assist in the movement take over the prime movers job (this example would be the glutes as the prime mover, and the erector spinae, and hamstrings as secondary movers).

Have you ever seen someone squat and their butts go up before their back? Some may say "keep your core tight." Sometimes it just isn't that simple. It may be at times, but in most cases this is not so.

Most cases you would need to stretch the inhibit the overactive muscles, and activate the muscles that aren't contracting at full capacity. There are a number of ways to do this, but for this article we will just say stretch the illiopsoas and activate the glutes.

Desk Warrior Tight Areas

  1. Illiopsoas - When this gets tight your low back hurts, and your glutes can't work properly, putting more work on your hamstrings and your lower back muscles. This can lead to a list of issues that needs an article in itself
  2. Hamstrings
  3. Pec minor/major, upper trap and levator scaps
This can give you tension headaches really fast, eventually, it could lead to some serious cervical issues. I was always told desk warriors have cervical issues, laborers have lumbar issues.
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jeff gray - January 11, 2019

great article, have to pay attention, I tend to sleep on my right side most of time.

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