Scoliosis bracing is common among people suffering from scoliosis. This treatment strategy has been around for a while now and it combines different modalities. However, most people wonder if scoliosis bracing is an effective option.
In this article, we will look at the different scoliosis bracing options and what to consider before choosing one.
What is Scoliosis Bracing?
To understand what scoliosis bracing is, we must rst gain insight into what scoliosis is. Simply put, scoliosis is a condition that results in an abnormal spine curve. When your spine has an abnormal curve, it can lead to back pain, uneven shoulders and hips, rib cage tilting, body tilting, and the head not being centered.
Doctors recommend wearing a scoliosis brace around the torso to treat this condition. The bracing prevents the spine curve from getting worse. It can also slow the progression of the spine curve. However, it’s very important to note that a brace for scoliosis only works in both children and adults who experience bone growth.
Therefore, it may not be ideal if your bones have stopped growing. According to most doctors, it should be worn starting from an early growth stage of between 9 and 12 years up to skeletal maturity that ranges from 15 to 16 years in females.
The American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS) has indicated that scoliosis bracing is effective in 80% of the patients treated with it.
Should I Get One?
Scoliosis braces cannot correct the scoliosis condition and are only ideal if you want to keep the curve on the spine from deteriorating. It can be effective if you want to manage the condition during the early stages.
In children, bracing is recommended to slow down curvature progression by manipulating the spine. Also, scoliosis braces provide support for adults and eliminates spinal movement.
Things to Consider Before Getting One
Before getting a brace for your thoracic or sacral spine, several things should be considered. Here are some of the things to keep in mind.
The Severity of the Curve
If you have a mild spine curve, your doctor might not recommend treatment immediately. However, this may change if the curve worsens and gets to 25 degrees to 40 degrees. Also, this treatment may not work if the curve is more than 40 degrees.
Other than the severity of the curve, your age can also be a great determinant when deciding whether or not to get braces. You may want to consider correcting scoliosis with a brace if your bones are still growing. If they have stopped growing, scoliosis braces may not be of help and you may have to consider surgery.
Type of Bracing
There are different types of braces in the market and the most suitable will depend on your specific needs. If you want one that you can wear during the day and at night,
you can consider a full-time brace. On the other hand, a nighttime brace is only designed to be worn at night.
The Types of Braces You Need
Generally, there are two types of scoliosis bracing available to choose from- full-time braces and nighttime braces. Full-time braces offer more support and are more comfortable while nighttime braces provide a more intense treatment.
As the name suggests, these braces are designed to be worn both during the day and at night. There are different types of braces in this category. They include:
- WCR Brace
The Wood-Cheneau Rigo (WCR Brace) spinal orthosis is a thermoplastic brace uniquely constructed to bring the trunk and spine into optimal postural alignment. The pressure points and expansion areas are located, shaped, and oriented to apply pressure to selected regions of the trunk, bringing the patient into the best possible 3-dimensional correction while maximizing comfort. The WCR brace concept employs regional derotation, using an unique pressure-system to guide frontal plane alignment and sagittal plane profile balance. Through this design, the WCR prevents lordotization of the spine while treating the patient’s scoliosis.
- Boston Brace
This is a common type of scoliosis brace that is usually made from prefabricated mold options. Also considered a type of TLSO (thoracic-lumbar- sacral orthosis), this scoliosis brace applied corrective pressure on the outer part of the curve. It then has a cutout on the inner side of the curve, allowing the spine to go in that direction.
- Wilmington Brace
Like the Boston brace, the Wilmington brace is also a type of TLSO. A difference, however, is that this brace is usually custom-designed to t each wearer. This is done when the patient is lying down and facing upward.
Depending on the patient’s spinal curve, the orthotist places corrective forces to t their requirements. This scoliosis brace works by applying it to the body to achieve a tight t. Hence, it has no open spots or gaps.
- Milwaukee Brace
This is a common type of cervico-thoracic-lumbar- sacral orthosis (CTLSO). Crafted from a contoured plastic pelvic girdle, this scoliosis brace is designed with the patient’s full upper body in mind. There is also a neck ring for keeping the head in a central position.
It goes from the pelvic to the neck and is most suitable for those with a thoracic curve. Both the front and the rear of the brace are connected with a metal bar that helps to extend the torso.
These braces are worn at night while lying down. They are more intense and are known to overcorrect the spine. Some of the nighttime braces for scoliosis include:
- Charleston Bending Brace
This is a TLSO scoliosis brace that is highly recommended for nighttime or when you are lying down for an extended time. It is custom-made to t your spinal curve and your body and works by applying strong pressure on your spine. As a result, it bends the spine beyond your back’s midline.
- Providence Scoliosis Brace
Unlike the previous nighttime scoliosis brace, this bracing comes with improved comfort while still ensuring maximum curve correction. It works by applying direct opposing forces to the abnormal curve rather than bending the spine. It is, however, considered uncomfortable, especially when one walks with it.
The Length of The Time Needed
Usually, the period for wearing a scoliosis brace will depend on your curve. Nevertheless, most orthopedic doctors recommend wearing the brace at least 18 hours to 20 hours a day.
For children, the length will depend on their curves as they are growing. However, it is best to note this brace works best when a child is growing and ends when they are done growing.
The Pros and Cons of Wearing One
- Helps stop or slow spine curvature progression
- Available in different types
- Enables the body to maintain correct posture
- Limits chances of spinal surgery
- It may not work if the curvature is severe.
- Only works when bones are growing.
- Causes blisters, soreness, and rashes.
- Traditional braces can do more harm than good
Other Options to Consider
One of the most common problems with scoliosis bracing is that it only deals with the symptoms of the condition. Hence, it does not address the underlying issue. What’s more, it may not tackle conditions where the curvature is over 40 degrees. In this case, you may want to consider other options.
To make scoliosis bracing more effective, there is a need to incorporate a training exercise routine to reduce the spine curve and improve breathing. Eventually, this will help slow down the curvature progression.
- ScoliSMART Activity Suit
This activity suit helps to create a new posture memory that can help your spine to unwind. It works with the body’s natural torque pattern to stabilize the muscles and reduce the curvature without applying any pain or pressure.
If your curve is severe, then you may want to consider undergoing surgery to correct it. This is because bracing only works for curves that range from 25 degrees to 40 degrees. Surgery may also be suggested if the curve is more than 50 degrees as this indicates nerve damage.
Ultimately, scoliosis bracing can come in handy if you want to slow the progression of spine curvature. It can be sued in both children and adolescents with skeletal maturity. However, this treatment is limited and may not correct the condition completely.