New study doing side plank reduced spinal curve in scoliosis Flawed or Benefit?

A study released in 2014 suggests treating scoliosis with a side plank has been all the buzz of the yoga community, reported in the Wall Street Journal and in the current March issue of the IDEA fitness magazine. The lead study author is Dr. Loren Fishman of Manhattan Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and professor at Columbia Medical School in NY. The study was published September 2014 in Global Advances in Health and Medicine. Read the study for yourself: Global Adv Health Med. 2014;3(5):16-21. This study is so flawed that it amazes me that it has gotten so much press. There was no control group, relied on self -reporting, too small a group and including adolescence age participants. Never the less, there is a positive side of this study and that is stability work changed some of the spines who participated in the study. And the medical community is turning toward movement and training as treatment for Scoliosis.

click to enlarge

For movement educators/trainers, scoliosis is a spinal condition that is complex to train. Understanding how the spine moves and adapts to gravity is important when working with this population. It is not as simple as a “C” curve or “S” curve. This makes it sound as if there is one curve or two. A “C” curve is actually three or four if considering the whole spine. The training idea of a weak side and strong side is old information. The spine is a whole 3 dimensional structure with many forces playing on it from the fascia, muscles, ligaments, arms, legs and organs to name a few. We have to consider and challenge the whole spine.

Working with the three-dimensional motion of the spine may be the key to bringing the spine closer to center or it can become the downfall of increasing the curvature. When one area of the spine, the lumbar for example, is moving into a side bend then the entire spine adapts. Using the 3D model, there are coupled movements of rotation and either flexion or extension. All of which, we as movement educators and trainers need to take into consideration.

The Pilates apparatus and specifically cued movements are extremely effective to improving the life of a person with scoliosis. I offer a workshop educating the trainer/ teachers on the 3 dimensional aspects of the spine in relation to scoliosis and how to work with the spine in a simple and safe way. There are two opportunities this year. Coming up fast is a two day workshop at Studio 26 in NYC March 28-29, and a one day workshop at Pilates Chicago May 17th.