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Brace (Orthotic) Treatment for Scoliosis

Brace (orthotic) treatment for scoliosis is used to prevent spinal curve progression.  Bracing does not correct a curve.  The goal of brace treatment is to prevent the curve from getting worse.

How Well It Works

Most research on using braces for scoliosis has focused on idiopathic scoliosis. In general, the research shows that braces can be effective for preventing curves from getting worse. The more the child wears the brace, the more effective the brace can be.

Although bracing does not always prevent a spinal curve from getting worse, the best results occur when:

  • Bracing is started early, while the child is still growing.
  • The spinal curve is moderate, not severe.
  • The brace is well fitted.
  • The child wears the brace for the prescribed amount of time.
  • There is family support for the child.

There may be some initial straightening of the spine and the appearance of correction when a brace is applied. But in most cases, after the child stops wearing the brace, this correction is lost and the curve returns to its original shape.  Brace treatment is used for a child who is still growing to prevent progression of moderate spinal curves. Brace treatment is usually continued until the child’s skeleton stops growing (skeletal maturity).

Two common types of braces include the:

  • CTLSO, which stands for cervical-thoracic-lumbar-sacral orthosis. This brace consists of a customized pelvic girdle and a metal structure that extends to the neck. This brace is not hidden by clothing. The CTLSO is used to treat curves high in the upper back, such as kyphos (hunchback). The brace treatment of kyphosis in the upper back can often result in correction.
  • TLSO, which stands for thoracic-lumbar-sacral orthosis. This brace consists of a trunk and pelvic girdle that is customized to fit the child. It is used to treat curves in the mid back and lower back. This brace does not have a metal structure and can be hidden by clothing better than the CTLSO can be.

Braces are not very effective for curves greater than 45 degrees.  Recent research has revealed that patients compliant with wearing their brace 13 hours a day (or as prescribed) are seeing positive results.

Risks

Complications of bracing therapy include:

  • A child not wearing a brace for the prescribed amount of time (allows the curve to get worse)
  • Skin irritation and Discomfort (consultation for a readjustment of the brace is recommended)

What To Think About

Children who wear braces are examined by a doctor regularly (such as every 3 months or 6 months or more frequently if problems arise) to monitor the effects of the brace.

A child who has a severe forward curve in his or her upper back in addition to scoliosis may not be well suited for bracing.

Children can ride a bicycle, play tennis, run, and jump while wearing a brace. But they should not participate in activities such as horseback riding, skiing, skating, and gymnastics while wearing a brace. Because wearing a brace makes many physical activities difficult, children or teens are typically encouraged to participate in activities but advised to remove their braces when they participate in such.