Bracing for idiopathic scoliosis
The goal of bracing is to stop your scoliosis curve from getting bigger as you grow. Bracing is a non-operative scoliosis treatment for children who:
- Have been diagnosed with idiopathic scoliosis
- Are still growing
- Have spinal curves between 20 and 40 degrees
Our specialists most often recommend a thoraco-lumbar-sacral orthosis (TLSO) brace for patients with scoliosis. In selected cases of primary curves in the lumbar spine (lower spine), we may also consider using a nighttime-only brace.
Frequently asked question about bracing for idiopathic scoliosis
Why do I need to wear a brace?
Bracing can reduce the risk of your scoliosis curve increasing. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that wearing a brace properly reduces the risk of curve progression by about 50%.
There is no guarantee that bracing will stop the curve completely; however, in most cases it is beneficial. We understand that not knowing if bracing will work is challenging for you and your family. What we do know is that following your doctor’s treatment plan is the key to effective bracing and outcomes.
How many hours a day do I have to wear my brace?
Research shows that the more you wear the brace, the more effective it will be at preventing progression of your scoliosis.
Data has shown that if you wear the brace for certain periods of time, you will have the following levels of benefit:
- Less than 12 hours a day = no benefit
- 12 to 16 hours a day = potential to stop the curve from getting bigger
- 16 to 23 hours a day = maximum benefit
Your orthotist (the professional who makes the brace) will apply a monitor in your brace. It has a small thermal (heat) sensors that record the internal temperature of the brace. The sensors provide valuable information that will help you and your doctor see your actual wear time along with patterns of wearing the brace. They do not track where you go or what you do; they only measure temperature in the brace which corresponds to wearing or not wearing the brace.
When can I stop wearing the brace?
You'll wear your brace until most of your growth is done, or if your curve keeps increasing despite appropriate use. Your doctor will discuss expected length of bracing with you.
What if the brace is uncomfortable?
It may take some time to get used to it. Things like bending down and even sitting on the floor will feel different at first. Don't worry – you will adjust to these changes.
Your orthotist will provide you with instructions on weaning gradually into the brace. You will need to contact the orthotist if you notice any areas of concern, such as redness or tightening in an area. Adjustments may need to be made to the brace in between check-ups with your provider.
Can I still participate in activities and sports?
Yes. It's important to continue to participate in sports and exercise activities for the overall health benefit they provide and for your general well-being. This time out of the brace allows the muscles in your core to be strengthened. Core muscles are the muscles that surround your back, abdomen, pelvis and hips. The core is the body's center of strength.
Having good core strength decreases the workload and stress on your lower back. Your exercise program should involve stretching and strengthening of these muscles. Watch our core exercise videos to learn 12 exercises for strengthening your back.
It's ok to take your brace off during:
- Showering and bathing
- Physical education class
- Special occasions determined by you and your family
Will everybody know that I'm wearing a brace?
Braces have low profiles and accommodate active lifestyles; they aren't as noticeable as you might think. There may be times when friends or people around you notice the brace, like when you change for PE class, for example. If they do notice your brace, just remember that they are curious and a brace is nothing to be embarrassed about.
If you wear a loose-fitting shirt, it's often hard to see. We recommend wearing a shirt under the brace that wicks moisture away. Use a shirt made from a high-performance material usually found at sporting goods stores, or even a tight-fitting cotton t-shirt to absorb moisture. The shirt should be seamless to prevent wrinkling and discomfort.