Bracing for scoliosis is somewhat controversial as a method of treatment. It doesn't work with every child and evidence is mixed about its effectiveness. A brace is generally recommended for scoliosis curves that are greater than 20°-25° and less than 40º-50°, and only if your child is still growing. Braces are worn in an effort to stop the spine from progressing to greater degrees of curvature. While they will not improve the current degree of scoliosis, they may prevent progression that could lead to a need for surgery.
Your child will be asked to wear the brace for 16 to 23 hours a day, and will be given special exercises to maintain lung function.
Bracing may not be helpful in girls who have had their period for more than a year, in children who have attained full growth, or are within one year of full pelvic bone growth. At this point, it’s thought that the degree of scoliosis will be stable. If the degree of scoliosis continues to progress despite the brace, surgery may be advised if the curvature reaches approximately 40° to 50°.
It can be awkward to wear these braces. They are uncomfortable and hot, and many adolescents feel embarrassed about appearing so different. If your child has difficulty adjusting to the brace, talk to the doctor about how they can build up tolerance for it.
Types of braces include:
This brace covers the entire torso. It has an area to rest the chin and a headrest for the back of the head. One flat bar travels down the front, and two flat bars travel down the back. This type of brace is used for scoliosis occurring at any point along the spine.
Thoracolumbosacral Orthosis (TLSO) or Boston Brace
This brace is a bit less chunky and obvious than the Milwaukee brace. It does not extend up under the chin or behind the head. Instead, it stays under the arms and wraps around the back, rib cage, lower back, and hips.
Charleston Bending Brace
This is a brace that is worn only at night. Questions remain about its effectiveness.
Researchers are still looking into this new type of brace that consists of a cotton vest and adjustable bands. Its effectiveness is still being evaluated.
Altaf F, Gibson A, et al. Adolescent idiopathic scoliosis. BMJ. 2013;346:f2508.
Campbell’s Operative Orthopaedics . 10th ed. Mosby; 2003.
Idiopathic scoliosis in children and adolescents. American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons Ortho Info website. Available at: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00353. Updated March 2010. Accessed November 21, 2013.
Questions and answers about scoliosis in children and adolescents. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases website. Available at: http://www.niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/Scoliosis/default.asp. Updated July 2013. Accessed November 21, 2013.
Scoliosis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us. Updated October 29, 2013. Accessed November 21, 2013.
Trobisch P, Suess O, et al. Idiopathic scoliosis. Dtsch Arztebl Int. 2010 Dec;107(49):875-883.
What is scoliosis? Fast Facts: An Easy-to-Read Series of Publications for the Public. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases website. Available at: http://www.niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/Scoliosis/scoliosis_ff.asp. Updated March 2009. Accessed November 21, 2013.
Last reviewed December 2014 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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