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Importance of a Back Brace for Scoliosis Patients

back and neck brace

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  • Although it’s said that a brace won’t cure or reverse the curve of the spine, it can help with preventing further curvature
  • A brace tends to treat scoliosis as a spinal issue, when in fact the disease is a neuro-musculoskeletal problem

To help a patient deal with scoliosis, a back brace may be recommended. This is often used to help apply corrective forces on the spine, assist with releasing the load on the concave or inner part of the curve and raise the load on the convex or outer part of the curve.

Research has shown that a scoliosis brace must be rigid or hard to apply strong and consistent pressure on the spinal curve to deliver an effect. Scoliosis patients may utilize a brace if these two conditions are met:1,2

  • The Cobb angle reaches at least 25 degrees, and the patient still has significant growth left until skeletal maturity
  • The Cobb angle is less than 25 degrees but has rapidly progressed at least 5 degrees in the four to six months between appointments

There are two known types of scoliosis braces:

  • Thoracolumbosacral orthosis (TLSO): This is made of plastic, not usually visible under clothing and is designed to fit neatly around the body’s curves.
  • Milkwaukee brace: This full-torso brace has a neck ring, with rests for the chin and the back of the head. A Milwaukee brace is only used when using the TLSO isn’t possible or is ineffective.

If the patient is at or near full skeletal maturity, a back brace may unlikely be prescribed since it may not be effective anymore.

The brace is usually worn all the time, even at night. Although it’s said that a brace won’t cure or reverse the curve of the spine, it can help with preventing further curvature. The more hours a day the patient wears the brace, the more effective it may be. The good news about using a scoliosis brace is that it won’t normally restrict what the patient can do. It’s advised, however, that children who want to take part in physical activity must take the brace off first before doing so.

What Are the Potential Problems of a Scoliosis Back Brace?

Although a brace can work in the short term and assist with contorting the spine into an alignment deemed acceptable when checked on x-rays, any positive effects may reserve themselves if the patient stops using the brace and even if the spine has reached skeletal maturity.3

The ScoliSmart Clinics highlight that a major problem in using a scoliosis brace lies in how it treats the condition. A brace tends to treat scoliosis as a spinal issue, when in fact the disease is a neuro-musculoskeletal problem. To put it simply, the brace only addresses the symptom (the spinal curve) instead of treating the underlying dysfunction. Even worse, there may be complications that can arise because of a brace:

Weakened muscles: The brace can work because it forces the spine into better alignment. The trouble can begin if bracing treatment stops because there is nothing preventing the curves from worsening again.

During this time frame, it’s possible that muscles and nerves in the back have already atrophied and sustained permanent damage, and prompt the spine to become less capable of realigning itself unlike before. Eventually, muscular weakness can lead to deterioration.

Lack of compliance: A brace may be ineffective because can it lead to trauma among patients, especially children, who wear it and prevent them from complying with treatment, thereby reducing the brace’s effectiveness.

Breathing problems: A study conducted on the TLSO brace discovered that it tends to squeeze the chest wall and abdomen. This can significantly impair breathing capacity, oxygen levels and other pulmonary functions.

Another study revealed that children who wore hard braces had a 30 percent loss of vital capacity and a 45 percent decrease in the amount of air released when the patient exhales. These changes are similar to what you might expect from a long-term smoker. Respiratory issues like these can trigger anxiety, headaches, cognitive dysfunction and sleep disturbances.


Scoliosis: Introduction

What is Scoliosis?

Types of Scoliosis

Severe Scoliosis

Scoliosis Symptoms

Dealing with Scoliosis-Related Pain

Scoliosis Causes

Scoliosis Side Effects

Scoliosis Treatment

Scoliosis Back Braces

Yoga for Scoliosis

Exercises for Scoliosis Patients

Scoliosis Surgeries

Scoliosis Prevention

Diet for Scoliosis Patients

Scoliosis FAQ

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