Will a Brace Provide Scoliosis Relief?

Scoliosis is the medical term for a lateral or sideways curvature of the spine measuring at least 10 degrees which is detectable on a spinal x-ray. An estimated 3% of Americans are diagnosed with idiopathic (unknown cause) scoliosis.

Genetics may play a part in the development of scoliosis, as it does seem to run in families. Research has not yet identified all the specific genes that contribute to the condition nor what other factors play a part in the onset and progression of the disease.

What are the Symptoms of Idiopathic Scoliosis?

A mild scoliosis curve (less than 20 degrees) may not be noticeable. The first visible sign may be the body seeming to tilt slightly to one side, which may be more noticeable when bathing or swimming. A parent, friend, or teacher may notice that clothing seems to hang unevenly.

Idiopathic scoliosis alone does not generally cause any significant pain in adolescents or young adults. However, the trunk imbalance created by the curvature may eventually cause painful muscle spasms and other health issues.

Types of Scoliosis

There are three basic types of scoliosis which are based on the time of onset or detection of the condition. These include:

  • Onset between birth and age 3 years: Infantile idiopathic scoliosis
  • Onset between 4 and 9 years old: Juvenile idiopathic scoliosis
  • Onset between 10 to 18 years old: Adolescent idiopathic scoliosis

About 80% of all idiopathic scoliosis cases are diagnosed during adolescence. Because adolescents grow at a rapid rate, scoliosis diagnosed at this point needs close supervision and monitoring.

Adolescence is also a time when the extent of curvature is more likely to increase at a faster rate, due to rapid bone growth. Traditional therapy often adopts a “wait and see” attitude.

During the observation period, the doctor will x-ray your child’s spine approximately every 4 to 6 months to determine the degree of curvature. The optimal time for scoliosis treatment is before the growth spurt of adolescence, at which time the most rapid increase in the curvature usually occurs.

Should the curvature increase to 20 or 25 degrees, a brace may be prescribed to slow down the degree of progression of malalignment and prevent surgery from becoming necessary. Bracing may be advised until full skeletal maturity has been achieved.

How Effective is Bracing in Controlling Scoliosis Progression?

Two factors are considered in determining how effective bracing is likely to be. These include:

  • Type of brace worn (rigid or dynamic)
  • Consistency: Wearing the brace daily or nightly for the recommended number of hours

Wearing the Right Type of Brace

Two types of braces are commonly used for scoliosis patients. The rigid brace is made of hard plastic and fits the front and back of the upper body like a shell extending from beneath the armpits to the pelvic area.

This brace can easily be worn under loose, comfortable clothing, so it need not be embarrassing to wear. Three Velcro straps allow easy fastening and removal. With practice, putting on and removing the rigid brace can become quite easy.

The “dynamic” (soft) brace uses Velcro and elastic straps along with some small metal or plastic pieces to keep it fitting snuggly.

Which brace is best will be based on your specific malalignment. Your doctor and an orthotist (a specialist who makes braces) will design the custom fit for your particular needs.

Amount of Time Recommended for Wearing the Brace

How many hours a day the brace will need to be worn will be determined by your doctor based on the type or curvature and degree of progression of your scoliosis. In many cases, 16 to 23 hours a day will be recommended.

Contraindications to Scoliosis Bracing

Although braces have proven effective to varying degrees in slowing the progression of idiopathic scoliosis in many patients, wearing them for the length of time recommended may lead to muscle atrophy, breathing problems due to pulmonary constriction, and possible stiffening of joints.

Your doctor will be your best guide in designing the right program of treatment for you or your child that will give optimal control for scoliosis progression while avoiding irreversible complications.

An Invitation

At Integrative Chiropractic Health and Wellness, Dr. Ryan Russell and his exceptional staff are ready and eager to design a scoliosis treatment program to meet your unique needs for total wellness.

Visit our website at www.integrativechirocenter.com or call us at 205-637-1363 to make an appointment. Our office is located at 1580 Montgomery Hwy #14, Hoover, AL 35216.

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