Just as there are different scoliosis treatment approaches for patients to choose between, there are different scoliosis braces that offer different potential results. Traditional bracing is associated with a number of shortfalls, but modern corrective bracing addresses those shortfalls; continue reading to learn how.
A scoliosis brace can help achieve corrective results by pushing the spine into a corrective position, and scoliosis braces can be particularly effective on growing spines. A scoliosis brace is a common facet of treatment for adolescents with scoliosis, with different braces to choose from.
As a complex spinal condition, scoliosis requires a number of different types of treatment to impact the condition on multiple levels, so let’s address some key condition characteristics and answer some scoliosis brace questions.
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There are a number of spinal conditions that involve a loss of its healthy curves, but scoliosis has some unique and complex characteristics that set it apart.
Scoliosis involves the development of an unnatural lateral (side-to-side) curvature of the spine, and in addition to bending unnaturally to the side, a scoliotic spine also rotates, making it a 3-dimensional condition.
The rotational component of scoliosis is an important factor when choosing the type of scoliosis brace to be used in treatment, which we’ll return to later.
Diagnosing and assessing scoliosis also involve a key measurement that’s taken during X-ray; a patient’s Cobb angle is determined by drawing lines from the tops and bottoms of the curve’s most-tilted vertebrae, and the resulting angle is expressed in degrees.
When the spine’s healthy curves are in place, its vertebrae (bones) are stacked on top of one another in a straight and neutral alignment, but when some vertebrae become unnaturally tilted, this shifts the spine out of alignment.
In addition to telling me how far out of alignment a scoliotic spine is, condition severity is also determined based on a patient’s Cobb angle:
Now, a key condition characteristic that’s important when it comes to bracing is the progressive nature of scoliosis.
Depending on what type of brace is used in treatment, stopping progression can be what its design is based on, or achieving corrective results, which means achieving a curvature reduction on a structural level.
So when do you initiate bracing in scoliosis? If a patient’s Cobb angle is increasing, this means their scoliosis is progressing, and this is when a scoliosis brace is often recommended as part of treatment.
As a progressive condition, scoliosis has it in its nature to worsen over time, and this means the size of the unnatural spinal curve increases, as do that condition’s uneven forces, and their effects.
As progression occurs, the spine gets increasingly rigid, and this makes it less responsive to treatment and can make it difficult for patients to perform certain therapeutic exercises and stretches that are a facet of treatment.
The fact that scoliosis gets more complex to treat the further along its progressive line a condition gets is why being proactive with treatment is so important.
And what causes scoliosis to get worse? Growth and development is the main trigger for progression, so when you think of patient age, this is an important factor.
Now, let’s talk about condition type, as this is also an important variable affecting when a brace is needed for scoliosis.
In addition to the wide-ranging severity levels of scoliosis, and its progressive nature making it complex to treat, there are also different types of scoliosis a person can develop, and this is determined based on causation.
The most common type of scoliosis to affect both adults and children is classified as idiopathic: not clearly associated with a single-known cause.
Approximately 80 percent of known diagnosed cases are classified as idiopathic, while the remaining 20 percent are associated with known causes: neuromuscular scoliosis, degenerative scoliosis, and congenital scoliosis.
The most prevalent form of scoliosis overall is adolescent idiopathic scoliosis, diagnosed between the ages of 10 and 18, and this age group is at risk for rapid-phase progression because of the rapid and unpredictable growth spurts associated with puberty.
So as adolescents are facing the constant trigger of growth, monitoring for progression is an important aspect of treatment, as is working towards a curvature reduction and holding those results throughout growth.
This is where a scoliosis brace is often needed as they are known to be particularly effective on growing spines.
A scoliosis brace is needed when progression is occurring, and scoliosis needs to be impacted on every level; this requires the application of multiple forms of condition-specific treatment.
Now, when it comes to treatment and bracing, treatment approaches need to be explored, and there are two main scoliosis treatment approaches for patients to choose between: traditional and conservative.
The former approach favors traditional bracing and tends to funnel patients towards spinal fusion surgery, while the latter approach uses corrective bracing as a facet of treatment to help patients avoid invasive spinal surgery.
Traditional scoliosis bracing has the end goal of stopping progression, but this isn’t the same as achieving corrective results.
Corrective results means that the curve is reduced on a structural level, and core strength is increased so the spine’s surrounding muscles can provide it with optimal support.
The most commonly used traditional scoliosis brace is the boston brace, and this is associated with a number of shortfalls, mainly related to the fact that it doesn’t address the condition’s rotational component, only impacting it in 2 dimensions, when scoliosis is a 3-dimensional condition.
The boston is mass produced, so is uncomfortable to wear, and in order to be effective, the brace often has to be worn full time, which can mean 18 to 24 hours a day for up to five years: compliance issues.
In addition, traditional bracing works via a type of 3-point pressure system that squeezes the spine unnaturally to force it into a straighter position, but this is known to weaken the spine over time, not to mention it can cause breathing difficulties and activity restrictions.
While the boston brace has changed little over the years, despite being designed in the 1970s, modern corrective bracing emerged with a goal for more than solely stopping progression: correction.
Conservative treatment values what corrective bracing can achieve as it can help augment corrective results achieved through other treatment, such as chiropractic care and physical therapy, by pushing the spine into a corrective position.
The ScoliBrace is an ultra-corrective modern brace that addresses many of the boston’s shortcomings:
The ScoliBrace is needed for adolescents who are facing the constant trigger of growth and to help achieve corrective results, as this means the scoliosis is corrected on a structural level, supported by strong muscles, and patients can perform key therapeutic exercises and stretches to help establish a home-rehabilitation program.
With current estimates at close to seven million people currently living with scoliosis in the United States alone, it is a highly-prevalent spinal condition.
As the most common spinal condition amongst school-aged children, awareness of the early subtle signs of scoliosis can help achieve early detection and intervention; while there are never treatment guarantees, when a condition is diagnosed early and responded to with proactive treatment, there are fewer limits to what can be achieved.
While scoliosis bracing is known to be particularly effective on growing spines, it does play a role in the treatment of adult scoliosis as well, but it’s used in different ways.
As adults have the progressive trigger of growth removed, counteracting rapid progression isn’t such a necessity, but as scoliosis becomes compressive in adulthood, making it painful, pain management is needed.
For adults, bracing is used more for stabilizing the spine, particularly with older adults for whom natural age-related spinal degeneration is an issue, and can also help with short-term pain management.
When treating children with scoliosis, bracing is used to help achieve corrective results, and as there is a big difference between traditional and corrective bracing, it’s important to understand the different types of results being offered.
Here at the Scoliosis Reduction Center, as a provider of non-surgical scoliosis treatment, I favor the use of corrective bracing, such as the ScoliBrace, as it represents the culmination of what we’ve learned about scoliosis, and treatment efficacy, over the years.
A scoliosis brace is needed for scoliosis when the spine is still growing, progression needs to be monitored, and curves need to be reduced on a structural level.