When treating a child or teen with a curvature of the spine, doctors will often recommend bracing as a way of halting the curve’s progression.
Back braces come in a variety of forms, each designed to prevent/minimise curvature development while the patient grows. Here, we look at two of the most well-known brace types: the Milwaukee brace and the Boston brace.
The Milwaukee brace may be prescribed to individuals who possess high thoracic (upper back) curves. It has an unusual design that is intended to manipulate the patient’s full upper body: the brace extends from the pelvis all the way up to the neck, and it’s manufactured with a contoured plastic pelvic girdle and neck ring, connected by a metal bar in both the front and back of the brace.
These metal bars play an important role, helping the torso extend while the neck ring keeps the head in a central position over the pelvis. Pressure pads are strategically attached to the metal bars with straps in accordance with the shape of the patient’s spinal curvature.
The Milwuakee brace (first developed in 1945 by Dr Albert Schmidt and Dr Walter Blount of the Medical College of Wisconsin and Milwaukee’s Children’s Hospital) is viewed by many as the first modern brace designed for the treatment of scoliosis. It has undergone a number of tweaks over the years, although the current design has been in use since 1975.
The Milwaukee brace is far less common now that form-fitting plastic braces are available. However, it is still prescribed for some scoliosis patients with curves located very high in the spine.
The Boston brace was first developed in the early 1970s by Mr William Miller and Dr John Hall of The Boston Children’s Hospital. It is a a type of thoracolumbosacral orthosis (TLSO), and it’s one of the most commonly-used brace options when it comes to treating scoliosis.
TLSO braces are commonly referred to as ‘underarm’ or ‘low-profile’ braces. The Boston brace is much smaller and far less bulky than the Milwaukee brace, with plastic components custom-made to fit the patient’s body exactly. The Boston brace covers most of the torso; at the front, it starts below the breast and extends all the way to the beginning of the pelvic area, while at the back, it starts below the shoulder blades all the way down to the tail bone of the spine.
This type of brace works by applying three-point pressure to the curve pattern in order to prevent further progression. This forces the lumbar areas to ‘flex’, pushing in the abdomen and flattening the posterior lumbar curve.
ScolioGold therapy and other treatments
If you’ve been diagnosed with scoliosis (or another curvature of the spine) and wear a back brace to help halt the progression of your curve, it is a good idea to undergo specialised physiotherapy as well. The sole purpose of a back brace is to stop the curve in your spine worsening during periods of growth; it does very little to assist in the building of the muscles needed for stability once the brace has been removed. To learn more about the specialised treatment courses for brace wearers that we offer here at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic, please click here.
In some cases, the treatment courses that we deliver can eliminate the need to wear a brace altogether! Please use the links below to find out more and book your Scoliosis SOS consultation.
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