Did you know that bracing is the only nonsurgical treatment proven to slow the progression of idiopathic scoliosis curves? Read on to learn more about this common treatment option:
Who needs a brace?
As a general rule, a brace for scoliosis is worn by adolescents until they have reached full skeletal maturity
However, it is important to note that the vast majority of idiopathic scoliosis cases do not require treatment, but instead only need to be monitored. In fact, only about 10% of cases need to be treated with either bracing or surgery.
Your child may require a brace if they meet either of the following criteria:
- Exhibit a Cobb's angle exceeding 25 or 30 degrees (with significant skeletal growth still expected)
- An increase in Cobb's angle exceeding 5 degrees during any 4- to 6-month period.
2 bracing options
In part, medical professionals are typically hesitant to prescribe bracing because it can be emotionally difficult on a young person. But when a brace is called for, there are 2 basic options:
- Full-time bracing. These braces are intended to be worn for up to 23 hours per day. Typically, they are only taken off when showering or while exercising.
- Nighttime bracing. A nighttime brace cannot be worn while standing because it disrupts the normal balance of the human body. These types of braces are only designed to be worn while in bed.
As a general rule, full-time bracing is prescribed for Cobb's angles greater than 35 degrees. For angles less than 35 degrees, either kind of brace is commonly prescribed.
Some young people may benefit from a nighttime brace because they are more likely to wear a brace for 8 hours a day compared to 23 hours. If your child is in need of a brace, you can consult with both her or him and their doctor to determine the best type of brace for your child's specific situation.
Exercise for a strong and flexible back
While bracing is the only nonsurgical option proven to stop the progression of idiopathic scoliosis, active exercise plays a key role in helping you, or your child, maintain a strong and flexible back.
Back exercises need to be performed in a gradual and progressive manner. Typically, exercise for people with scoliosis include stretching, strengethening, and low-impact aerobic exercise .
In addition there is some evidence to suggest that bracing is less effective when used on teens who are overweight. Therefore, exercise may also be important when determining the success rate of bracing on young people.
As mentioned previously, bracing can be a difficult emotional experience for young people. So make sure you work closely with your doctor, and possibly a mental health professional, to care for your child during this tough time.