One of the primary causes of thoracic scoliosis is cerebral palsy, a neurological disorder that affects motor function. In this population, treatment options include bracing, education, and other interventions — not just surgery.
There are many different treatments for this condition, but most people choose to have surgery to correct the curve. Surgery for scoliosis is usually done on a child before age 18 because bones may fuse together if left untreated. In this piece, we will discuss the different treatment options for thoracic scoliosis.
Different Types of Thoracic Scoliosis Treatment
There are three ways to treat scoliosis, which will be reviewed here: bracing, surgical correction, and physical therapy.
Bracing is a non-surgical option that helps strengthen the spine. The goal of bracing is to make it easier for the patient to tolerate the effects of scoliosis without the need for surgery. Bracing involves wearing a brace or wearing a modified brace (such as before going underwater at a swimming pool or during other athletic activities). There are many different types of braces, including Boston brace, Milwaukee brace, and Charleston Bending Brace.
Boston brace. The Boston brace is a solid plastic device that has steel bars that run across the chest. It works by correcting the curve gradually (usually at a rate of 1-2 degrees per year) over an extended period of time. The curve can never be corrected so much that the ribs touch.
Milwaukee brace. The Milwaukee brace is a device that gives the patient more freedom, while still correcting the curve. It works by providing rigid support when needed and flexible support when not needed. This brace is usually worn until puberty when the bones finish fusing together.
Charleston bending brace. This is a non-weight-bearing brace in which the chest plate bends with each step to allow for mobility. The brace is given to the patient by a physical therapist who can adjust the brace and make sure that the back is bending in the correct way.
The benefits of each brace are different, as are the risks associated with them. The Boston brace is generally considered to be the most comfortable and perhaps the safest. Milwaukee and Charleston braces can cause pain while wearing them, and they may not be necessary in some cases. You may have to try several different types of braces to see which one feels best.
Surgical correction involves removing an abnormal bone or part of a bone from an area that has been affected by scoliosis. This is usually done on adolescents and involves the use of rods, screws, or both to correct the curve.
Rods are slim, threaded, metal implants that help stabilize the spine by acting as a rigid support system. The rod can be placed in a device called an “omega bracket,” which holds one end of the rod. The other end is usually inserted into two or three vertebrae, depending on how severe the curve is. These rods are usually placed between the fifth and sixth vertebrae and take between four to eight weeks to heal.
Screws are used to hold a rod in place. Screws can be inserted on either end of the rod depending on where they are being inserted into the spine, and are often removed once scoliosis has been corrected. These screws can be made out of stainless steel, titanium, or cobalt chrome. The primary difference between these is the amount of time that they remain in the body. The most common screws are made of titanium and are left in for about five years.
Physical therapy is another option for treating scoliosis. This is a non-surgical, non-medical approach to correcting scoliosis by strengthening muscles, stretching areas of the back, and reducing back pain. Physical therapy can also be used to retrain the spine’s movement patterns.
The therapy can ease back pain and correct the curve, but it doesn’t always correct the curve enough to eliminate the need for surgery. It is usually combined with bracing or surgery to achieve a full correction of scoliosis.
Physical therapy also focuses on improving endurance and maintaining muscle strength. Endurance is improved by doing different activities that challenge the muscles while maintaining strength is achieved by using resistance bands, weights, or machines to work out specific areas of the body.
In conclusion, there are many different options for treating scoliosis. Bracing, surgery, and physical therapy are all possible options. The best option may depend on the patient and their symptoms, but most people go with surgical correction when they have a curve that cannot be corrected by just bracing and physical therapy. To talk about treatment options for thoracic scoliosis, contact our experts at 205-637-1363.