Levoscoliosis is a type of spinal curvature where the spine curves to the left in a “C” shape. This curve usually starts in the lower back. Treatments, such as braces or surgery, can help better align the spine.
The spine is mostly straight. In people with levoscoliosis, however, the spine appears to take on a hard “C” or “S” shape, leaning to the left.
Levoscoliosis, which involves a left spinal curve, is less common than scoliosis that involves a right spinal curve. In fact, a 2014 review estimated that 85–90% of adolescents with scoliosis had right curves.
An “S” shaped curve will usually curve left at the lower back (lumbar region) and right at the upper back (thoracic region).
The National Scoliosis Foundation suggest that around 2–3% of people in the United States have some form of scoliosis. People tend to receive their diagnosis between the ages of 10 and 15, and females are eight times more likely to have scoliosis that needs treatment than males.
This article gives an overview of levoscoliosis, including its causes, complications, diagnosis, and treatment.
For around 80% of people with scoliosis, the condition develops without an apparent cause or reason. Doctors call this “idiopathic scoliosis.” Medical conditions, wear and tear, and injury can also cause scoliosis and levoscoliosis.
Types of scoliosis and levoscoliosis with known causes include:
- Congenital scoliosis: This develops when conditions present at birth interfere with the development of the spinal bones and configuration.
- Neuromuscular scoliosis: This occurs when a loss of muscle control or sensation leads to spinal curvature.
- Degenerative scoliosis: This refers to normal wear and tear on the spinal bones and joints that happens naturally with age.
- Mesenchymal, or syndromic, scoliosis: This occurs when a more significant syndrome or condition interferes with or limits the connective tissues and joints that stabilize the spine.
Types of scoliosis and levoscoliosis with uncertain or unknown causes
- Infantile scoliosis: This develops within the first 3 years of life.
- Juvenile scoliosis: This affects people aged 4–10.
- Adolescent scoliosis: This is by far the most common type of idiopathic scoliosis. It affects people aged 11–18.
- Adult scoliosis: This develops in adults.
Some research suggests that scoliosis may have a genetic cause. For example, children are 50 times more likely to have the condition if both parents have idiopathic scoliosis. Also, many of the medical conditions that can cause scoliosis are genetically inherited.
Currently, researchers do not think that lifestyle habits such as poor posture, inactivity, or diet play any role in the development of scoliosis. However, they may play a role in worsening symptoms.
Many people, especially young children and adolescents, develop a mild form of levoscoliosis that does not tend to cause any obvious symptoms other than a slight change in posture and how clothing fits. The severity of the condition depends on the extent of the curve, where it is, and the cause.
Severe scoliosis tends to occur less often, but it can be very painful. Without treatment, this can lead to serious health risks.
Health professionals consider levoscoliosis to be a particularly dangerous form of scoliosis because the heart is located in the left side of the body.
Also, levoscoliosis is more likely to be linked to other conditions — including spinal tumors, growths, and neuromuscular disorders — than scoliosis with a right curvature.
Potential complications associated with moderate and severe forms of levoscoliosis that a person does not receive treatment for include:
- chronic and often debilitating back and chest pain
- stress, anxiety, and depression
- lung and breathing problems
- rib irregularities and pain
- heart distress and heart failure
- a loss of control or reduced functioning of the bladder and bowels
- a loss of sensation, reduced blood flow, or pain in the arms and legs
To help diagnose levoscoliosis, a doctor will ask a person questions about:
- their personal medical history
- their family medical history
- their symptoms
- what may have caused the curve to develop, such as an injury
They will then perform a physical examination to assess the alignment of the spine, shoulders, and hips and check for pain, numbness and tingling, and muscle weakness. They will also ask the person to bend forward at the waist and let their arms hang by their sides.
Most doctors diagnose levoscoliosis by using imaging tests to determine the angle between the two most misaligned vertebrae. This is known as the Cobb angle.
Doctors consider a Cobb angle greater than 10 degrees as a sign of scoliosis that requires monitoring.
If the doctor suspects levoscoliosis, they will order an X-ray to confirm the condition and determine the extent of the curve. Other diagnostic tools they may use to confirm and assess scoliosis include:
The most effective course of treatment will depend on the cause and severity of the scoliosis, as well as the person’s health and age.
Some common treatments for scoliosis and levoscoliosis include:
Back or underarm brace
Wearing a plastic back brace cannot reverse a spinal curve, but it can help prevent curves from worsening in about 80% of children. Children with spine curvatures of 25–45 degrees may need to wear a back brace.
Most people will need to wear the brace for 16–23 hours per day, only taking it off to bathe or exercise.
Once the bones have stopped growing or repairing themselves, a back brace will no longer be useful.
In severe cases of scoliosis, especially when the spinal curve might damage organs or interrupt movement, a doctor may perform a spinal fusion to try to reverse the curve.
In spinal fusion procedures, a surgeon will realign the curved bones and then attach small pieces of bone tissue along the repaired region. When it heals, it will form a single, straightened bone.
The surgeon may also attach a metal rod to the spine after surgery, to ensure that the bone remains straight while healing. Most people can walk the day after surgery and return to nonstrenuous activities within 2–4 weeks.
People with levoscoliosis who are trying to reduce pain and improve flexibility may benefit from visiting a chiropractor.
It is important to choose a practitioner who specializes in managing scoliosis. Choosing a nonspecialized chiropractor may make the symptoms worse.
Chiropractic treatment cannot cure levoscoliosis. However, it can improve a person’s quality of life.
Do exercises work?
The scientific community is conflicted over the value of some therapies, such as chiropractic treatment and massage. However, physiotherapy has offered more promising results.
According to the Scoliosis Research Society (SRS), some specific exercises aim to help with the symptoms. These are called physiotherapy scoliosis-specific exercises (PSSEs).
Some research suggests that exercises may help, but according to the SRS, “At the present time, there is no evidence supporting PSSE[s] to be offered in substitution of bracing in treating progressive idiopathic scoliosis.”
The core principles of the program include:
- autocorrection, which involves educating the person to recognize and actively attempt to readjust spinal curves, often using images or mirrors
- incorporating activities that encourage good posture and strengthen the spine into everyday life
- elongation of the spine
- expansion of the chest wall, usually by standing and stretching the arms out with the palms facing forward
In most instances, people with a minor form of scoliosis do not require treatment, and it is not a sign of a serious underlying medical condition.
However, people with more severe cases may experience serious complications, such as chronic pain and reduced organ function, if they do not receive treatment.
For children and adolescents, wearing a back brace can help stop the progression of the curvature. Surgery may be necessary for adults and adolescents with severe spinal curves.