What is Scoliosis Bracing?
Scoliosis is a sideways curvature of the spine, most often seen in children. When untreated, scoliosis can worsen over time, requiring treatment to fix.
Scoliosis bracing involves applying pressure to the spine and ribs to stop scoliosis from getting worse.
Bracing has been the standard non-surgical treatment for pediatric scoliosis for hundreds of years. Nevertheless, in recent years, some critics have spoken out against its value. Current data, however, supports wearing a brace as the most effective alternative to spinal fusion surgery.
Types of Braces
We can divide bracing treatments into two main categories: rigid and dynamic braces. Most rigid braces require full-time wear (from 16 to 23 hours a day) or overnight wear (8 to 10 hours).
Rigid braces: The most common type of scoliosis brace and often considered the most effective. Bracing specialists create these from either prefabricated or custom molds of the patient’s back and torso, with custom pressure points added to correct curvature. Despite popular belief, patients can wear many of the full-coverage braces under clothing. The Boston Brace, for example, uses thoracic-lumbo-sacral-orthosis, or full-coverage, to reshape the spine from the shoulder blades down to the pelvis. However, other braces, such as the Milwaukee Brace, are bulkier (but only used in the most severe cases).
Furthermore, patients should only wear rigid, nighttime braces, like the Charleston Bending Brace, when lying down. This type of brace forces the spine into a hyper-corrected position that would be difficult to maintain while standing.
Dynamic or Flexible Braces: Are made out of elastic material. They are generally much more comfortable and discreet to wear, allowing patients a wider range of motion during daily activities. These braces are more comfortable, and thus more appealing to some. They utilize traction and resistance to provide support and stability, pulling the spine into a corrected position.
What are the Advantages of Scoliosis Bracing?
Bracing and surgery are the two most effective forms of treatments for scoliosis.
Bracing works by using compression to encourage diminished bone growth in problematic areas of the spine while promoting compensatory bone growth in other regions.
Being proactive about scoliosis treatment is key to avoiding further spinal problems and potential reconstructive surgery. If left untreated, scoliosis can lead to reduced height and abnormal posture. Severe cases can affect heart and lung function, leading to a host of serious health problems.
When worn as prescribed, braces are an effective method to manage scoliosis. In fact, a 2013 study showed that braces could slow scoliosis progression to the point that researchers decided to terminate the clinical study early.
Dr. Lowenstein and his team of specialists are experts in the field of scoliosis treatment and correction. They can recommend the best type of brace and custom-design an option that is right for your condition and lifestyle. Together, our team will create a personalized treatment plan that works best for you.
Do I Qualify for Scoliosis Bracing?
If you are suffering from scoliosis or care for a child who is, then bracing may be the best course of treatment for you. The sooner you contact us, the sooner we can help you choose the best option for your lifestyle.
For children and adolescents with pediatric or idiopathic scoliosis, bracing eligibility depends on the degree of bone growth and severity of the curve. Your doctor will prescribe a brace if abnormal curvature is between 20-50 degrees. Research shows that scoliosis curves over 50 degrees do not respond to bracing and will require surgery. Because adolescence is a key period for spinal growth and growth spurts, it is often best to start bracing during this period – as soon as any abnormalities arise. Early preventative treatment can help the spine grow in the correct direction and minimize further complications that may emerge as the child continues to grow.
Adults may also be eligible for scoliosis bracing, which can relieve the pain and discomfort caused by scoliosis. Because skeletal maturity is complete in adults, bracing will not correct the curve but it can help to provide support to relieve back or neck pain. In particular, dynamic braces tend to be a more popular option for adults.