I’ve been inundated with emails and questions about the yoga side plank exercise for scoliosis, based on a study released late last year. I blogged about the results of this study here, letting you know that I thought the study’s findings were incorrect and that the exercise should actually be done on the opposite side that they suggest.

Some people agree with me, some don’t. But what I unequivocally know is that there are people around the world who are confused as to which side they should do their plank, and they’re wondering if it makes sense for their specific scoliosis.

In this video, I show you which side would work for my individual scoliosis. I have right thoracic curve and left lumbar curve, therefore I believe that I would do my side plank with my left hand down. Remember, this is the opposite of what the side plank study recommends. Read my original rebuttal of the study for my reasoning.

Side planks are great to help build strength, and I actually include them (on BOTH SIDES) during a challenging portion at the end of the new Hard Core Scoli workout. I included the side plank to increase overall bodily strength and alignment, not as rehab. Each side plank is also only held for a few seconds, just long enough to test your core strength and balance. If you are choosing to use the side plank exercise as a form of therapy, I must advise caution because you are choosing to diagnostically treat yourself based on faulty data.

Next week, we’ll review an email from a young man in Norway who’s been doing the side plank for months; and now he’s concerned that he’s been doing it on the wrong side, therefore, increasing his curve.

I welcome your comments in the spaces below!

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33 thoughts on “Yoga Side Plank for Scoliosis Demonstration

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  1. Julie lang 7 months ago

    Hmmm. Have you spoken with Dr Loren Fishman? Your spin is uninformed and destructive to an experts work. Really shortsighted.

    1. Erin Myers 7 months ago

      Hi Julie, I’ve emailed back and forth with both Dr Fishman and his wife, along with many other experts in the scoliosis world. This research article is not clear as to what curve’s convex side needs to be down. No where in the research does it say it. I interpreted the research to be thoracic convex side down and after email conversing with Dr Fishman and his wife recently they said the research was intended for lumbar convex side down, again, which wasn’t in the original research. Interestingly, my interpretation was correct then. I said the concave thoracic side needed to be down, which is the same side as the lumbar concave side down. So my spin is not uninformed and destructive — it’s correct. -Erin Myers

  2. Amoramo 3 years ago

    Hi erin. My name is amor and recently i found out that i have a 5 degree left convex on my upper dorsal spine. And now i am so worried. I do not want this to go worse so i am trying my best to do any exercise that i must to stop this or maybe even totally cure this. Please help me suggest what exercise i should do or if i should do that side planking i saw on your video. And if yes, i should be doing it with my right hand down, am i right?

    And please, should i be worried with this? I read something in the internet that left convex is not common. What corrective actions should i do? What could be the causes of this scoliosis? My last xray was 2 years ago and i did not have this scoliosis. Only days ago, i found out about this. I am 27 years old now.

    I would really appreciate if you can help me enlighten on this. I am so worried now that I couldn’t even sleep at night. Please help me. I would really really appreciate it. God bless you.

    1. Erin Myers (2) 3 years ago

      Hi Amor,
      I’m so glad you reached out to me. Technically, 5 degrees is not considered scoliosis. You need 10 degrees to have an official diagnosis. If you are 27 and just got diagnosed and didn’t have it 2 years ago my guess is that you have functional scoliosis meaning an action in your life is what caused it. If this was idiopathic scoli (which usually shows its head in the teenage years), yes, an upper left curve would not be the norm. The root of idiopathic scoli is still being argued over. BUT, since my guess is that you have functional scoli you need to figure out what action you are doing that is causing you to drop down on your right side. Do you do something for your job that is very right handed? I’d figure out what you’re doing that’s causing it before attempting to fix it with exercise honestly. If you find a good myofascial massage therapist I’d bet they’d be able to release the tissue on the right side of your spine and get it straightened up really quickly.
      Blessings,
      Erin

  3. disqusbro 3 years ago

    If you had a both the the thoracic and lumbar curving to the right side (opposite of a C) then you would plank on the left side right so that the spine is going pulling towards the floor, right? one more question, does this help straighten both the thoracic and lumbar, or just one of them? I have Thoracolumbar

    1. Erin Myers 3 years ago

      I’m a bit confused with the description of your scoli. Is it upper right and lower left (upper right convex and lower left convex)? The side plank theoretically can help C and S shaped curves. As I’ve argued my point in all 3 side plank posts, I wouldn’t do this exercise because there are too many variables. I can’t promise it’s a magic pill like the research states. Try to describe your scoli a different way to me.
      Erin

      1. disqusbro 3 years ago

        No problem, I uploaded a picture to give you a better picture! if you could look when you get a chance. looks to me like its curving to the left and my left shoulder is also higher , which I think is caused by the spine pushing it upwards on that side

        Would you agree the best solution for this is to do side planks on my left side for 2 minutes?

        https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/883df583154e17106c108d6cdab6e854cb797e4c49673c0c3d862935df23a6df.jpg
        https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/0d6675a7dd2f83085ffa0dc7140c56bc01fd3923aa99481c4326b70aef8ffc63.jpg

        1. Erin Myers 3 years ago

          I’m not a doctor and can’t “read” X-rays, but I will tell you what I see. You are on top of your scoli, because it doesn’t look that bad. Way to go! I’ll start at the top:
          a bit of vertebral rotation in the top few thoracic vertebra (release left upper trap/rhomboids attachments, I can see it visibly pulling on T1 or T2 to the left scapula). The distance between the spine and the right scapula is greater than to the left side, so I’d do mid trap exercises on the right to help pull the spine to the right. You’re also rib shifting to the left in the picture, so typewriter your ribs to the right PAST the midline a few times a day to retrain everything to come back to center. It also looks like your right ribs are rotating back (the whole ribcage is rotating in that direction) so do back left ribcage breathing exercises to help unwind your your ribcage.

          If you do your side plank with the left hand down (what the research says) I’d put money down that those tight T1/2 attachments will get tighter (not good). So, if you’re dead set on doing the side plank exercise I’d do it with my right hand down and make sure your pelvis is elevated to the ceiling (same thing as making sure you’re doing a rib shift to your right).

          I hope you can make sense of what I said. Is there a Schroth therapist or Pilates instructor in your town who you can see, even once, to get a few good exercises that are perfect for your scoli? I also bet if you can find a structural integrator or rolfer in your town they’d be able to release everything and get your spine released to a more neutral position.

          You have a beautiful back that can TOTALLY come to a more neutral position…pretty easily if you ask me. Lucky you!

          1. disqusbro 3 years ago

            Thanks for the reply! when you say typewriter do you mean tighten?

          2. disqusbro 3 years ago

            Thanks for the excellent reply! When you say typewriter do you mean push your rib cage to the right side? Any idea what posture would help you breathe through the back left of your rib cage?

            No scroth therapist near me but there are rolfers and if i’m ever near your studio i’ll make a visit as you seem very open minded!

          3. Erin Myers 3 years ago

            No, I don’t mean tighten. I mean literally shift your ribcage over like old fashioned type writers did. Sounds silly, but literally just focus on breathing into your back left ribcage. Yeah, it’s that simple. I do both of these exercises (and explain them) in the warm-up section of Hard Core Scoli. If you need more clarity you could get the DVD or stream it, both of which are available on Amazon.com.

            What part of the world do you live in? I can help you find a good practitioner in your neck of the woods.

          4. disqusbro 3 years ago

            Gotcha i’ll buy that on amazon

            i’m currently in ireland

          5. Erin Myers 3 years ago

            I’ve heard of so many people in Ireland who have scoli. How interesting. I know there is both Pilates and Gyrotonic in Ireland, which are the two modes I use to help myself and all my scoli clients. I don’t know the town you are in, but see if one of those types practitioners is near you.

            If you are willing to travel, Schroth’s headquarters is in Germany. There’s a big scoli clinic in London, England. There’s also a Schroth off-shoot in Barcelona, Spain. These options will be more expensive than lessons at your local Pilates or Gyrotonic studio, but if money or traveling isn’t an issue, then go for it!

          6. disqusbro 3 years ago

            Yes you’re right it’s very common here!

            I have one more question (if you don’t mind me asking) it’s that the two ribs just under the left side of my chest are further inwards (by about 1cm) than the right side which causes pain on the right side of the chest and upper rib area (where its further outwards) when running

            do you think this may be caused by a rotated spine, causing the ribs on the right side to push out further and the ribs on the left side to pull backwards?

          7. Erin Myers 3 years ago

            Your ribs are a mere extension of your vertebra. Yes. What’s happening with your ribs is a big picture of what’s happening with your spine. I talk about this in my book The Beautiful Scoliotic Back. Yes, your thinking is correct.

          8. disqusbro 3 years ago

            Very interesting, would you have any recommendations of exercises for upper rib depression on one side, or are the ones you already mentioned good enough?One exercise which I think can unwind rotated ribs is the scroth RAB http://goo.gl/z26Jan here’s how its done http://goo.gl/RZZEKh

            This sounds similar to what you were saying (breathe through one side only)

          9. Erin Myers 3 years ago

            Yes, RAB is wonderful. It can be tricky to understand without a Schroth practitioner teaching you, but I bet you can figure it out because of the links you sent to me. You must create space from the ribs that are pushed into your body with your breath. Way to go from doing your research!

          10. disqusbro 3 years ago

            Thank you! im currently reading your book and its very good i’ll be sure to leave a 5 star on amazon

            I have another question if you don’t mind me asking, it’s that I have trouble expanding the right side of the back when breathing through diapragm, I can expand the left side a lot more (right side very little)
            would you recommend doing the RAB on that side too, or would that prevent the spine from de-rotating if doing it on both sides (which would even things out)?

            Or maybe it just goes out further because the spine is shifted towards that side

          11. Erin Myers 3 years ago

            Thanks. I appreciate the review on Amazon!

            Your low thoracic and upper lumbar area on your right side needs to be expanded out. Rib shift to the right and breath the low right ribcage out to the back with your breath. Yes, you are totally on the right track. Nice work!

          12. disqusbro 3 years ago

            no problem , is this the place you mentioned in london? I may as well go there to make sure i’m doing the correct ones http://www.scoliosisinlondon.co.uk/

            Also I may have found a good exercise for expanding depressed/flattened ribs, its mentioned here http://goo.gl/BiEm9p that breathing through the area where the flattened ribs are causes the spine to unwind (another book I found mentions this as well) and an exercise to make you breathe through your upper ribs/chest (using diapgragm) is mentioned here too http://goo.gl/iyac0o

          13. Erin Myers (2) 3 years ago

            http://www.scoliosissos.com is actually the clinic I was thinking about, but check out the other clinic as well that you mentioned. Great therapists are everywhere (you just have to look for them), and they all charge different amounts.

            The links you found are great. Breath is your life force with scoli.

  4. Svitlana Sokolovska 3 years ago

    Hi Erin! I’m the one who is confused about what side to choose for side plank. Although your arguments seem correct, in your video it is clearly seen that your spine become straight when you do the plank with your right hand down, because your blade pushes the convex side to the opposite direction (that is good). I have the same type of scoliosis Based on my feelings, if to do the plank with right hand down the right lumbar muscles involved (they look weaker in my case) and it feels like the convex side goes left (that is expected). When I do the plank with left hand down it seems to get worse because the left blade pushes the concave side even more to the right and leads to spasm in lumbar left. Please comment and check your own feelings while doing the plank

    1. Erin Myers 3 years ago

      Hi Svitlana,
      In the video I should’ve lifted my pelvis up higher when my left hand was down (I don’t do this exercise for my scoli, so I don’t practice my corrective form on this regularly). You’re correct with what you saw. No way could I do planks regularly on my right side because it would end me in spasms in my upper right back. Do your side plank in front of a mirror so you can correct yourself. Have someone behind you if you can to correct your alignment and rotation too if possible. You can also measure your vertebral rotation (see my posts about the scoliometer) to check and see if your scoli is getting better while you do this. That being said, listen to your body. Don’t push past a muscle spasm. That’s your body talking to you, saying it doesn’t like what you are doing.

      I have a 22 year old client who came to me 10 months ago with a 75 degree curve major curve in her upper right back. Her parents were very against surgery and paid about $50,000 in therapies all over the country for her since she was a teenager. Her curve is upper right and lower left, like mine. One of her Schroth physical therapists years ago gave her the side plank as an exercise opposite of what I’m saying, the same as what the research says. It didn’t make her scoli worse, per se, but it wasn’t a miracle pill either. Over the last handful of years her scoli continued to slowly increase in degrees.

      When she came to me we started strictly doing Gyrotonic work (see Spiral Spine’s Gyrotonic videos on You Tube if you don’t know what this is). On her own, she stopped doing her side plank exercises. She felt changes in her back and feared the worst about a month ago so she went and got x-rays. Well, to her surprise her spine DECREASED in curvature about 15 degrees! I say all this to say that you need to look outside the box for scoliosis exercises. Please don’t think that the side plank is going to be a magic pill for you. Way to go with being proactive with your scoli!
      Blessings,
      Erin

  5. Karen 3 years ago

    I am 60 years old. When younger I had mild right lumbar scoliosis with a slight left thoracic curve. I was very active and in my 50s the lumbar curve increased due to degeneration. The lumbar curve has always been the major curve. Based on the medical study I have been doing the side plank with the right hand down on floor. My understanding of what you wrote in your article was the side you choose to put your hand on the floor should be based on the thoracic curve, even though it is not the major curve?

    1. Erin Myers 3 years ago

      Hi Karen,
      If degeneration is the issue you are dealing with you really need to focus on core strength. All people with scoli need core strength, but if osteo is becoming part of your issue focusing on core strength in a neutral pelvic/spinal alignment is key along with back extension. A good Pilates instructor can guide you with what to do there. That being said, I wouldn’t do a side plank for you, I’d do different exercises to strengthen your left lower back. Your lower left side needs to be stretched and worked in a long state to help your strong right lower side, which is the work horse. If you were going to do a side plank I’d do it as you are doing it with the right hand down. It’ll help pull your upper curve to your right. Most importantly though, since your lumbar curve is your major curve, you need to lift your left leg up to help fire your left lumbar muscles. You can also just lay on your right side and lift your left leg up (and do other side lying exercises). Also, look into your diet to increase bone strength and maybe a D3/K2 supplement if your blood work shows you’re low in D3 (which I bet you are).
      Blessings,
      Erin

      1. Karen 3 years ago

        Thank-you, Erin

  6. Pam 3 years ago

    How do you feel about supporting yourself on your elbow during the plank, rather than the hand? Does that involve the same back muscles?

    1. Erin Myers 3 years ago

      It’s the same exact exercise using the same exact muscles. You’re just stabilizing your body on a different angle.

  7. TeamYoga 3 years ago

    Hi Erin,

    So if I understand you, in your body,you have a lateral spinal curve to the right in the thoracic spine let’s say “around” T4-5. And, you are asserting, that for such an issue this side plank would be done such that the curvature is away from, rather than toward the floor. Is that correct?

    1. Erin Myers 3 years ago

      Nice summary. Yes, that’s exactly what I’m saying. My left mid traps need to fire to pull my spine towards my left scapula. If I do it on my right side for too long my right mid traps and rhomboids end in crazy spasm, which are already too overworked. Many other professionals in the scoliosis industry agree with this (see comments in the original side plank article about this if you want back up http://spiralspine.com/side-plank-theory-scoliosis/ ).

      1. Gordon Kaplan (Team Yoga) 3 years ago

        I read the original study and it was obvious from a glance that it was well intentioned but flaccid, providing little more than interesting fodder for discussion. Once I saw the population size I was done and no measure of positive results was going to lure me further.

        Obviously we work in different modalities, which is fine. And I try to be clear with clients that I teach MY modality and that modality has its perspective – just as others have theirs. It prevents people from playing the right/wrong game and reduces conflict, both internal and external.

        My prime directive is “if this works in your body then it works in your body”. That is the ultimate measure. I’ve found things that I’ve had work for me and observed as working for clients but for some that same thing doesn’t at all do it.

        I will say that I give very little credence to the idea that superficial muscles can and do overpower the inter-vertebral muscles. The premise that increased muscle fiber activity in rhomboids and traps (or their release) would/could move the spine either into or out of lateral alignment AND hold it there as though the spine is a garden hose … I just can’t embrace that. And of course if we’re going to rigidly vet studies showing scoliotic reduction so too would we need to do so with all the folks who believe they’ve made their lateral curve worse with a couple of months of side planking.

        1. Erin Myers 3 years ago

          Hi Gordon,

          Even though we work with scoliosis clients through different modalities, we really are on the same team. We both strive to help people with scoliosis improve their quality of life through movement and a mental mind shift.

          I like your description of the spine as a garden hose. Oh, if my entire spine was like that. Ha! I do believe that the traps and rhomboids affect scoli, but as you mentioned other things come into play as well. In addition to inter-vertebral spinal muscles we’ve also got intercostals, the diaphragm, sternal costal cartilage, the entire fascial system, all shoulder and pelvic muscles, sagittal profile alignment and the list goes on and on and on.

          Yes, every body is so different and a one-sized-fits-all exercise approach simply will never work for people with scoli. I strive to debunk that myth.

          Keep loving on your scoli clients, Gordon!