Curvature of the spine can be treated in a number of different ways, but one of the most commonly-prescribed treatment methods of all is bracing. Scoliosis patients will often wear a rigid plastic shell known as a 'Boston brace' for as much as 23 hours a day, removing the brace only to bathe or shower.
Is bracing an effective treatment for scoliosis?
Bracing is usually only recommended if the patient is still growing. The Boston brace is most commonly worn by children and teenagers who are still going through (or have yet to undergo) the adolescent growth spurt.
The aim of bracing is not to reverse the patient's spinal curvature or reduce their Cobb angle
measurement. However, bracing can sometimes be an effective way to halt the progression of the curve; in other words, a back brace won't make scoliosis get better, but it may stop it from getting any worse.
Scoliosis patients in the UK who exhibit a spinal curve of 40 degrees or more are often referred for spinal fusion surgery
. If your spinal curve measures between 20 and 40 degrees and your body is not yet fully-grown, you may well have to wear a Boston brace to stop the curve progressing any further while you finish growing. Hopefully, the back brace will keep you from reaching the point of needing surgery.
Are scoliosis braces uncomfortable?
Of course, while most scoliosis patients are happy to wear a Boston brace if it means avoiding a surgical procedure, this treatment method does have its downsides. Some brace wearers find the brace uncomfortable, especially during the summer months when the weather is hot and the extra insulation is unwelcome. It can also take a while to get used to sleeping with the brace on.
Furthermore, a scoliosis brace may somewhat limit the wearer's ability to move around. While your brace probably won't be restrictive enough to disrupt your daily routine, you may find that it affects your performance if you engage in sports or other very physical activities on a regular basis.
Will the scoliosis brace be visible through my clothes?
In addition to the discomfort associated with wearing a Boston brace, many young scoliosis sufferers worry about the aesthetic implications of wearing a rigid plastic shell under their clothes every day. Most brace wearers are school-aged, and the possibility that the brace will make them look strange can understandably be a source of much anxiety for these young people.
Fortunately, modern scoliosis braces are very well-designed - each one is moulded to fit the shape of the wearer's body, and nowadays they tend to be very difficult to see when concealed by loose-fitting clothes.
How long will I have to wear my scoliosis brace?
In most cases, the patient will have to continue wearing their brace for as long as their spines continue to grow. For girls, this usually means 2 to 2.5 years post menarche; boys usually have to wear the brace until the age of 15-16. However, girls tend to stop growing a couple of years before boys.
Are there any alternatives to bracing?
Here at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic, we use our own unique treatment method - ScolioGold therapy
- to treat scoliosis patients and other individuals with curved spines. Unlike some braces, our approach has been shown to reduce the Cobb angle
and effectively reverse the progression of scoliosis.
Mia, a 13-year-old girl from Bromley, came to our clinic a couple of years ago. Our ScolioGold treatment course decreased her spinal curve to the point that she was able to stop wearing her brace during the day and only put it on at night.
Contact Scoliosis SOS
to find out more about our treatment courses and arrange an initial consultation with our scoliosis consultants.