What on Earth Is the Reverse Trendelenburg Position?

March 9, 2016 All posts Jared Sebastian

What does pelvic surgery have to do with stopping a snoring habit? Well, more than you might think. Without delving too deeply into history of 19th century medicine, the connection begins with a German surgeon by the name of Frederich Trendelenburg. Trendelburg started the tradition of elevating a patient’s feet for abdominal and gynecological surgery, so that the person lies on their back with the feet about fifteen to thirty degrees higher than the head, with the whole body more or less straight. The good surgeon found that with a patient situated this way, gravity keeps the intestines further away from the pelvis so the surgeon has better access to the pelvic organs.

The Reverse Trendelenburg position

The reverse Trendelenburg position, which is becoming increasingly common in more modern surgeries, is about what you’d expect: the head is elevated instead of the feet, which now point some twenty degrees downward. Its popularity has to do with a whole slew of associated benefits, such as increasing the effectiveness of epidurals, improving blood flow to the brain, allowing better access to the prostate, and lowering the odds of someone regurgitating food during surgery.

Importantly, studies have also shown that this sleeping position decreases intraocular pressure (that’s pressure inside the eyeballs) by about 20 percent, which means there’s a good chance it can lower a person’s odds of developing glaucoma. 

Acid Reflux

But let’s get back to that regurgitation point (gross, but important): we’re less likely to regurgitate if we’re lying in that position. That means the likelihood of experiencing acid reflux (the backflow of stomach acid into the esophagus) is considerably diminished—which is one of the many reasons people are experimenting with using the reverse Trendelenburg position for sleep.

Stop Snoring

Speaking of sleep, what about snoring? It’s been widely reported that elevating the head helps to keep the soft tissues of the mouth and throat from causing a snoring sound, but that’s only part of the story. Only elevating the head, resulting in a chin that drops down to the chest, can actually constrict the airways and make snoring even worse.

This is why more and more products are hitting the market that allow a person to sleep when the entire body is tilted, or at least the entire torso. When the neck is in line with the body, but gravity is working to pull the tongue and other soft tissue downward and away from the airway, the reverse Trendelenburg can be an extremely effective snoring solution.

Not surprisingly, adjustable electric beds also provide many of these health benefits. If you suffer from acid reflux, chronic snoring or are worried about glaucoma, you should rethink your flat bed frame and mattress. An adjustable bed might be the best idea you’ve yet to try.

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