Side Planking for Scoliosis

Side Planking for Scoliosis

by Dylan Bartley, MSPT, CMP

Researchers at Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York produced some promising results in the treatment of scoliosis with just one simple exercise: a side plank. This common yoga pose was performed on the convex side of the curve. So if your scoliosis bows out to the right, you should put your right arm down and lift your right hip up off the floor. They offered variations to accommodate varying levels of fitness and different types of curves. The poses were held for as long as possible, once a day, starting at 10-20 seconds.

To measure the success of their intervention, they took x-rays before and afterwards and measured the degree of curvature in their subjects. After 6 months, they found a significant improvement of an average of 41%. They tried to see if there was a difference between younger subjects and older subjects with more degenerative changes and both groups responded well with no significant difference between the two groups.

Scoliosis is a problem of imbalance and asymmetry that tends to progress as we age and can lead to debilitating arthritis and muscle spasm if it goes unchecked. Over the years doctors have tried to stabilize it with complicated surgeries involving rods or uncomfortable braces. Physical therapists have tried to correct it with stretches and strengthening the core and spinal muscles. It would make sense that to treat this problem of asymmetry one would need to attack it with a set of asymmetrical exercises. Unfortunately, there has been little research to back up these hunches until now.

If you are interested in getting an assessment of your spine to see if you have scoliosis or if you’re ready to treat a scoliosis you’ve always known you’ve had, physical therapy is a great place to start. We can set up a custom protocol that would match your current level of fitness and show you how to progress things as you get stronger. Furthermore, structural factors such as a leg length discrepancy or pelvic/sacroiliac dysfunction can be the driving force behind your scoliosis and may be treatable with physical therapy.

To see the original article, click here

Running in Minimalist Footwear

by Dylan Bartley, MSPT

You may have heard of the class action lawsuit against the Vibram FiveFingers that resulted in a settlement. If you’re a runner who tried the iconic FiveFingers shoes and developed an injury such as plantar fasciitis or achilles tendonitis, this may be sweet validation for you. If you’re one of the many people who used them and loved them either casually or as a running shoe, then maybe you’re left wondering, is it just a matter of time before I develop an injury? Should I go back to those cushy, supportive Brooks shoes my Podiatrist said I should use? Are all minimalist shoes such as the Nike Free and the New Balance Minimus risky to run in? In 2013 we saw sales of minimialist footwear stop their climb and begin to decline, replaced, of course, by sales of motion control shoes and stability shoes.

Well, let me shed a little light on some of those questions. Let’s start with anatomy: there is a variability in the morphology of our ankle bones that predisposes one towards having a low or a high arch. Structurally some of us have the type of arch that wants to collapse and pronate while others are just blessed with a normal or high arch that supinates well. And there is a fourth category: those that have a structurally normal or supinated foot but when they stand and move, they pronate and collapse too much. Let’s call them functional pronators. A knowledgeable physical therapist should be able to assess what kind of foot you have exactly and guide you through the process of choosing footwear.

If you are in the first category of structural pronators, then you may not fare well in your attempt to run in minimalist shoes. There are just too many biomechanical forces to overcome when your foot hits the ground and eventually your tendons and ligaments get strained. Using a stability shoe or motion control shoe or orthotic placed in a minimalist shoe will reduce your risk of injury. Your level of strength and conditioning (or simply personal preference) determines which of those shoes will work best for you. If you are genetically blessed enough to have a neutral, supinated, or functionally pronating foot, then you may be able to slip some minimalist shoes on and get your foot in shape. You can rely on your foot’s ability to naturally pronate and absorb the shock of landing without over-taxing your soft tissues.

By the way, I say “get your foot in shape” because the wean-in process with this kind of thing is real. That is, of course, why even people with perfect arches often get injured when wearing Vibram FiveFingers. Those of us with sedentary jobs or feet that have been living the life of luxury supported by rigid orthotics and supportive running shoes will have an even greater challenge. Functional pronators may need extra time to strengthen their foot muscles. It can take anywhere from 6 months to a year to really build up enough strength to wear a minimalist shoe for an entire 10k or just walking around town all day. There are so many fine motor intrinsic muscles in your foot like the flexor digiti minimi brevis that you probably have never been asked to use unless you were a modern dancer or you grew up walking barefoot in Africa. So be patient as you gradually increase the distance of your runs in minimalist shoes. Wear them half the day at work, and bring a cushy old pair of shoes to switch into at lunchtime. Alternate wearing your minimalist shoe on short runs while wearing supportive shoes on long runs. And listen to pain. See a physical therapist to help diagnose and treat even minor injuries before they become chronic, severe ones. Stretch after your runs and employ a little self-massage and strength training to help your body through any strains. Your new and improved feet will thank you.

Enhance Your Balance

by Dylan Bartley, MSPT, CMP
  • Falls are the leading cause of death from an injury in persons over 65
  • 75% of emergency visits are fall-related
  • 40% of hospital admissions in persons over 75 are the result of fall-related injuries

Technical Stuff


  • Balance is a complex process involving the reception and integration of sensory inputs, and the planning and execution of movement, to achieve a goal requiring upright posture. It’s the ability to control the center of gravity over the base of support in any given sensory environment.
  • Reflexes are automatic responses by the peripheral or central nervous system to help support postural orientation; they occur rapidly enough to not be under volitional control

Balance comes from 3 places

  • Visual System: helps us see things in the environment and orient us to the hazards and opportunities presented
  • Vestibular System (the inner ear): provides the brain with information about the position and motion of the head in relation to gravity; it contributes directly to postural stability
  • Proprioceptors/somatosensory receptors: located in joints, ligaments, muscles, and the skin

Balance is also dependent on:

  • Strength
  • Good flexibility
  • Reflexes and motor planning

When Things Go Wrong

  • The Brain needs input from all 3 systems (visual, vestibular, proprioception) to distinguish motion of the self from motion of the environment
  • Nausea, vomiting, dizziness often result as a mismatch in inputs
  • It takes the brain a little “extra work” to deal with mismatches
  • Example: When sitting in car at a stoplight and seeing car next to you creeping forward, you slam on your brakes
  • Example: When you are boating, proprioceptors perceive a rocking boat under your feet, but your eyes just see a steady horizon
  • there may be medical reasons why one of the three systems are not functioning like a stroke or diabetes or just poor vision. Make sure you are getting the help you may need to address these problems whether it is from a Physical Therapist, Doctor, or Optometrist


Use it or lose it! Through practice and repetition, you can help the brain get used to these mismatches and be able to distinguish when the mismatch means trouble, or when it’s OK.

Do your routine 3 times a day, 10-20 reps to get your brain reprogrammed.

It may be a quick routine that only takes 5-10 minutes.

Extrinsic Risk Factors to Address

  • Check your environment: loose cords and rugs can pose threats
  • Does your home have adequate lighting, adequate space?
  • More injuries and falls are likely in crowded situations


Minolta DSC

Single Leg Stand

tandem standing

Tandem Standing


Stand on BOSU or Wobble Board or Trampoline

Ways to increase the difficulty with the above exercises:

  • Close the eyes
  • Swing the arms, Spiraling, Reaching outside of your center of gravity
  • Tossing an object with a friend or bounce one against a wall
  • Scanning your eyes and turning your head from side to side

Vestibular Exercises

  • Walk and read
  • Walk while reading a moving book
  • Walk and turn head while reading
  • Walk and turn head with eyes closed


As always, we are here at Active Marin to help you through an individualized program to enhance your balance, whether to prevent another potentially debilitating fall, or improve your performance in your favorite sport. 

call us at 415 385 3755 or email us at for an appointment or more info

Anti-Inflammatory Foods

by Dylan Bartley, MSPT, CMP

In treating any injury in physical therapy, one must take inventory of how one’s body is prepared to fight it. We all need a good immune system and a quick response to an injury. Inflammation is a necessary part of that response, helping to temporarily immobilize the area and bring valuable inflammatory cells to begin the repair process. But our inflammatory system has a tendency to get out of hand with all the stress we place on our bodies and toxins in the environment.

Tuning up your diet a little to quiet the inflammatory system is often a great way to stay in balance. Often times an improper diet is actually the cause of excess inflammation. If one has an allergy to dairy or gluten, that person’s immune system will be working on overload to fight the food that the body has decided is toxic, and inflammation will run rampant through the body. So in building a diet to fight inflammation, one must first make sure that the diet is not the cause of inflammation. Once you’ve done that, now it’s time to add in some foods shown to control an overproductive inflammatory system. Here’s a list compiled from Jennifer Cole, Editor of If your shoulder injury or knee pain has been lingering for more than a few weeks, check in with a physical therapist and go grocery shopping for some good food.



    • Certain types of fruit are well regarded for their anti-inflammatory properties, specifically red, purple and blue fruits. Red grapes, for example, contain quercetin an antioxidant which may be effective in reducing inflammation. Blueberries, contain high levels of anthocyanin, an antioxidant that is known to be effective in minimizing swelling. Try to eat organic fruit wherever possible as pesticides are often hard to wash away, especially on small berries.
    • Pineapple is known to contain an enzyme which has been found to have anti-inflammatory properties. This enzyme is called bromelain. Wherever possible try to eat fresh pineapple as far less bromelain is usually present in canned products.
    • Many vegetables contain properties that may help act as anti-inflammatory agents. Try to eat plenty of fresh – ideally organic – cruciferous Vegetables. These include cauliflower, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, cress and bok choy. These vegetables are all loaded with antioxidants that can help rid the body of harmful compounds.
    • Salmon is one of the healthiest fish you can eat and is known to contain anti-inflammatory omega-3’s. It’s always better to eat fresh fish wherever possible and wild salmon is one of the highest regarded anti-inflammatory foods. Try to include oily fish in your diet your diet at least twice a week.
    • Ginger is known to have a host of health benefits. A 2010 study showed that daily consumption of ginger helped to reduce muscle pain associated with exercise by a staggering 25%. Ginger is simply a great addition to any diet as well as being effective in reducing inflammation.
    • Extra Virgin Olive Oil provides a large amount of those special fats that are effective at fighting inflammation – in addition to providing various other health benefits. It should be relatively easy to find a way to incorporate extra virgin olive oil into your daily diet. This pure oil is considered by many in Mediterranean culture to be the secret to longevity!
    • Garlic has been linked to positive health claims for just about everything from the common cold to heart disease. There are numerous claims and counter-claims about the effects of garlic as an anti-inflammatory food. , We decided that garlic should make this list purely based on the overwhelming amount of anecdotal evidence – but remember, the myth maybe larger than reality!
    • Turmeric is an Asian spice that is known to contain curcumin – a natural anti-inflammatory compound. Curcumin is also often found in various curry blends and is believed by many to be a powerful natural pain reliever.
    • Sweet Potatoes are well known to have a positive anti-inflammatory effect are a valuable source of complex carbohydrates, beta-carotene, fiber,manganese and vitamins B6 and C.
    • Despite numerous studies, there is little evidence to support the claims made for the anti-inflammatory properties of Green Tea. Nonetheless, the health benefits of green tea have been lauded in asia for centuries and just about every nutritionist continues to promote it’s wonders!