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.

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Sham surgery may be better than Menisectomy for Knee Pain

A partial menisectomy has been one of the most commonly recommended surgeries for people suffering from knee pain. A meniscus tear is likely when there is medial or lateral pain along the joint line, there is pain with twisting, and the knee locks up, gives way or buckles when walking. In December of 2013 a double blinded study from Finland was released in the New England Journal of Medicine that compared a group who had the typical surgery to a group that had a fake surgery where they were arthroscopically probed but the torn meniscus was left as it was. The participants that had the meniscus cleaned up and smoothed out had better results early on, but by 12 months there were no differences between the two groups.

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This suggests that maybe you should give a second thought to whether you go under the knife to fix your knee pain. An earlier study by a different group compared physical therapy to arthroscopic surgery and found no difference at 6 and 12 months between the two groups. These two research studies may be pointing more patients towards physical therapy to deal with their knee injuries. It is more cost effective than the $3,000 to $6,000 sticker price for the menisectomy, and also less traumatic to the body. Of course, surgery will always have its place, especially in cases where the meniscus is flapping over on top of itself or ligaments are also torn.

Physical therapy can reduce swelling and pain, strengthen the muscles around the knee and help you to correct any biomechanical faults that may have been the cause of the damage to the meniscus. This is one of the main reasons that the research studies are finding surgery coming up short: it may clean up the injured tissues for a moment, but more damage is likely to occur if one continues to use their knee in the same way.