I’ve been blown away by the overwhelming amount of interest in Dr. Loren Fishman’s Side Plank Research, originally published in 2014 in the Wall Street Journal. I’ve written three separate blog posts on the subject (here’s the first, second and third), and they’re by far the most read and commented posts on Spiral Spine’s site. I’ve also corresponded with others privately on social media and email, each of whom were asking for guidance as to which side they should perform the plank on.
As you may already know from my previous posts, I disagree with Dr. Fishman’s findings and have been quite vocal about it.
Recently, Dr. Fishman has published an article on Huffington Post that has stirred the pot even further and reintroduced the Side Plank Research to the public at large. While I agree that specialized exercise is crucial for those with scoli, a one-size-fits-all exercise approach for scoliosis doesn’t exist. There is no “magic pill.”
But let’s investigate this further.
I’ve been in contact with a mom whose 15 year-old son who has scoli. This mother is determined to avoid surgery for her son, and in doing so, has taken him to Spinal Dynamics to learn the Schroth Method as part of a weeklong intensive program. And although the Schroth exercises were showing a slight reduction in his curves, her son was getting bored from, “staring at a wall for 30 minutes a day doing his exercises.”
She then came across the aforementioned Side Plank Research but was confused as to which side her son should perform the plank on (along with the rest of the scoliosis world), so she set up (and paid for) multiple Skype sessions with Dr. Fishman to confirm that her son was indeed doing the plank correctly.
They followed Dr. Fishman’s instructions precisely and the young man did his side plank for 3-4 months (even though he was supposed to do it for a full 6 months per Dr. Fishman) but he stopped because his shoulder was hurting from doing the exercise.
Unfortunately, here are the son’s results, measured and confirmed by X-rays:
–Before the side plank exercises, his high thoracic curve measured 34 degrees; his lower curve measured 47 degrees.
–After performing the side plank exercises for 3-4 months, his high thoracic curve increased to 50 degrees; his lower curve increased to 60 degrees!
These young man’s curves got significantly worse after doing the side plank exercise exactly as prescribed by the doctor who created the side plank study. This further proves that Dr. Fishman’s research is fundamentally flawed and in fact, can make your scoliosis worse.
Well, now what?
After decades of study and training in scoliosis management, here’s what I know to be true:
- Exercise works to reduce scoliotic curves.  
- You have to determine which specific exercises will help reduce your individual curves.
- A qualified movement practitioner can help you determine which exercises are good for your body. Need help finding a practitioner? Watch these videos from the Spiral Spine Starting Point series. Videos 4 and 5 tell you what to look for when searching for a practitioner in your area. Also watch the Spiral Spine TV video titled, How Do I Make My Scoliosis Better? for additional guidance.
- Once you’ve found a movement practitioner and discovered which exercises help decrease your specific curves, do these exercises regularly and track your progress with a scoliometer.
Having scoliosis is confusing enough; don’t be fooled by perceived quick fixes. Take control of your health and find out what works for you.
I’m going to leave you on a positive note and share an email I received from a mother whose daughter has scoli in Alabama:
Just want to share some good news with you. Sabrina (her daughter) had X-rays yesterday and they show that she’s down to 25 degrees from 32 degrees back in October. All the therapy works. I remember back in the Orthopedic Dr.’s office in October 2015, they promised me that Sabrina would only get worse no matter what I tried. They told me that only a back brace could stop the progression and even then, there was only an 80% chance that it would work. Look at her X-ray today. It’s amazing!!!! We are so excited. Thanks for your help in our journey.
To clarify, I’ve never met this mother or daughter in person. I haven’t talked to either of them on the phone or Skype. I’ve never taught her daughter a lesson. None of this is about me, the work I do work with my clients, or what I do for my own scoliotic body. It’s about the fact that these modes of therapy work – and they can work for you (minus the side plank).
Check out The Beautiful Scoliotic Back for more stories and suggestions on therapies.
 Weiss HR, Weiss G, Petermann F. Incidence of curvature progression in idiopathic scoliosis patients treated with scoliosis in-patient rehabilitation (SIR): an age- and sex-matched controlled study. Pediatric Rehabilitation. 2003;6(1):23-30. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12745892
 Maruyama T, Takeshita K, Kitagawa T. Side shift exercise and hitch exercise. Studies in health technology and informatics. 2008;2(135):246-9. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/5451854_Side-shift_exercise_and_hitch_exercise
 Hawes M. The Use of Exercise in the Treatment of Scoliosis: an Evidence-Based Critical Review of the Literature. Pediatric Rehabilitation. 2003;6(3-4):171-182. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14713583