Often occurring in children during the growth spurts that happen shortly before puberty, scoliosis is a sideways curvature of the spine. The type of scoliosis that occurs most often during adolescence is idiopathic scoliosis. Periodic observation, bracing, and surgery are the most common treatment recommendations for the condition. However, bracing is the only non-surgical treatment that has been proven to be effective for slowing the progression of spinal curvature.
Encouraging Normal Spine Development
The spine itself has a natural C-shaped curve at the top (cervical spine) and a reverse C-shape in the lower (lumbar spine) portion. Bracing discourages the spine from extending this curve sideways any further. It’s usually effective for children because the spine is in the process of developing until puberty is over.
Because it’s worn while the spine is still developing, it’s possible to affect how it grows. To achieve this goal, the brace must be properly worn and tight enough to impact the spine’s growth. It’s also important to teach the child and anyone who will be helping with the brace the proper way to position it.
Preventing Further Development of Scoliosis
Bracing won’t reverse scoliosis. However, it can slow its progression enough to prevent the degree of the S-shaped sideways curve from reaching a point where surgery is a consideration. To be effective for this purpose, the brace must be worn according to a schedule that fits the child’s lifestyle. For instance, a child who swims or plays soccer may have a schedule that allows the brace to be taken off during these activities.
Who’s a Candidate for Spinal Bracing?
Surgery for idiopathic scoliosis only becomes an option if the degree of the curvature is greater than 45 degrees when puberty-related growth stops. Otherwise, bracing will likely be the first attempt at treatment. It’s typically meant for children with a curvature ranging from 25 to 45 degrees, which is considered mild to moderate scoliosis. There are two basic bracing options:
- Full-time braces – These braces are meant to be worn most of the time (up to 23 hours a day in some cases), except for when the wearer is showering or exercising, which can also strengthen muscles that support the spine and make scoliosis less problematic.
- Nighttime braces – For milder curves, a brace may only need to be worn at night. These braces are designed to be worn in bed and should not be worn when standing.
A study on juvenile idiopathic scoliosis found that 90 percent of the curves progressed, a higher average than what’s normally experienced with scoliosis during childhood. However, a study on spinal bracing found that 75 percent of patients had treatment success with the brace. Bracing usually continues until the skeleton becomes fully mature. Interestingly, many patients don’t require any treatment other than routine observation, and only about 10 percent need bracing or minimally invasive spine surgery. Beverly Hills families should have their children examined if they suspect scoliosis.
Scoliosis is just one of many conditions affecting the spine. Much like there are many causes of spine pain, there are also many potential treatments, from fusion surgery to spinal cord stimulation. Beverly Hills residents can rely on the expert surgeons at The Spine Institute to diagnose the source of their pain and find an effective solution for relief. To schedule an in-person evaluation, call our office at 310-828-7757 today.