Scoliosis Braces: Why Bracing is Outdated & Ineffective
The Disadvantages of Treating a Neurological Problem Physically
Scoliosis bracing is an outdated treatment that needs to end. Scoliosis brace treatment has existed for more than 450 years, yet its success is still unproven. Bracing often causes more problems for the person wearing it, such as pain that didn't exist before, breathing problems, and weakened muscles. It hasn't been proven to prevent scoliosis surgery, either.
So why does it continue to be a go-to "solution"?
Bracing is typically recommended for children ages 10-15 with a scoliotic curve between 25 and 45 degrees. The hope is that bracing will delay or halt curve progression, since the condition is progressive. One major problem with braces — including hard plastic braces, metal braces, and even softer dynamic braces — is they cause muscles to weaken. When you don't use your muscles, they atrophy. For example, when your arm is broken and casted, the muscles inside the cast become small and weak. This is what happens when your child wears a scoliosis brace for the recommended 18-23 hours a day.
It also explains why the curve rapidly worsens once the brace is removed. In a brace, your child's spine becomes stiff. Joints don't get necessary movement and they often develop more degenerative issues. Scoliosis bracing also puts stress on the ribs and typically causes a rib hump. Doctors almost always recommend removing the brace when they see this negative change using 3D x-rays, yet the additional damage is already done.
Scoliosis Braces Constrict Breathing and Bone Growth
Another serious issue with scoliosis bracing is that bones cannot grow properly without intermittent pressure. The theory behind bracing is that it will open the inside of the curve (the concavity) by removing pressure and encourage growth on the concave side of the curve (the convexity). But you need intermittent pressure on bones to stimulate growth and the concavity needs to grow. You cannot "guide" bone growth by squeezing the ribs and bending them laterally while the wearer sleeps or sits.
Even if bracing was proven successful, studies suggest that children only wear them 10 percent of the recommended time. They say bracing hurts, is embarrassing, and handicaps their lives. Full-day bracing doesn't prevent surgery, so they aren't inclined to follow the protocol.
In addition, braces like the most common thoracolumbar-sacral-orthosis brace (TLSO) brace squeeze the chest wall and abdomen. A Norwegian study of the TLSO found it significantly decreases pulmonary functions, including breathing capacity, oxygen, and CO2 exchange ratios. Breathing impacts hormone regulation, muscle and fat composition, and cognitive performance. One study showed that children who wore a hard brace had a 30 percent decrease in vital capacity (VC) and a 45 percent decrease in expiratory reserve volume (the air you can push out after a normal exhale). These decreases in pulmonary function are identical to those typically found in long-term smokers! Respiratory distress causes headaches, anxiety, sleep disturbances, nightmares, and cognitive dysfunction (memory, perception, and problem solving). The risks associated with scoliosis braces are extreme.
Part-time scoliosis braces worn only at night and dynamic corrective braces may seem like better options, but they also cause extreme pressure and pain. Plus, studies have shown that patients who wore braces for the prescribed time and those who barely wore them at all have almost the same outcomes.
Why Are We Still Using Scoliosis Braces?
Possibly, doctors and chiropractors still prescribe scoliosis braces because they continue to view the condition as purely physical rather than neurological. Scoliosis is primarily caused by the brain not being able to maintain or restore posture and balance. In children with scoliosis, the brain doesn't recognize that the spine is out of alignment, so it doesn't trigger auto-correction mechanisms to fix the curvature. For whatever reason, the natural alarm bells don't sound in the brain stem, so the brain doesn't realize there's a problem to fix.
Scoliosis exercise treatment is needed to create a stimulus that helps the brain to recognize something is wrong. The brain will then work to correct spinal posture. Exercises need to stimulate a subconscious trigger, so only specialized exercises work. A routine of sit-ups and pelvic exercises won't create the needed trigger.
This is why using braces to guide bone growth doesn't make sense. Neither does "waiting and watching" a curve that measures less than 25 degrees, which is common treatment in the early stages of scoliosis.
Alternatives to Bracing for Scoliosis
At the ScoliSMART® Clinics, we teach your child an exercise training routine that creates new muscle memory to hold the spine straighter. Our Early Stage Intervention and Scoliosis BootCamp™ programs halt scoliosis progression, reduce curvature, and improve your child's breathing. We also decrease each child's curve rigidity so they can move more easily.
Additionally, we use these patented exercises and neurological training to help relieve adult scoliosis and the pain of degenerative arthritis through ScoliPAIN.
Every scoliosis case is unique. Larger curves require more extensive treatment, especially in children whose spines are still growing. Curves that measure over 25 degrees have a 68 percent chance of progressing in adulthood, as well. Our innovative equipment and Auto Response Training helps minimize the "coil down" effect of scoliosis. This is when the spine twists from the top to the bottom, kinking in the middle like a rubber band. The spine needs a chance to be free of this coil down effect to improve the chances of stabilizing or reducing the curvature.
Proactive Scoliosis Treatment
Children with mild or moderate scoliosis benefit most from the ScoliSMART® exercises because their muscles are not yet deformed by months or years of compensating for abnormal twisting and bending of the spine. In addition, we use proactive treatment solutions such as the ScoliScore genetic test, nutritional testing, and our Scoliosis Activity Suit™.
Scoliosis Activity Suit™
The activity suit and exercises work with the natural torque pattern of the body to create new muscle memory. The new muscle memory helps the spine unwind, stabilizes asymmetrical muscles, and reduces curvature without pressure or pain.
ScoliScore is a genetic test for Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis (AIS). It uses DNA markers to predict the probability that scoliosis curvature will progress. The test results help us determine the best treatment options for each child.
The chemicals your brain uses to talk with the rest of your body are called neurotransmitters. We test neurotransmitters for imbalances that contribute to the development or progression of idiopathic scoliosis. Imbalances can be corrected with supplements and dietary changes. Normal neurotransmitter levels help your child benefit from ScoliSMART® exercises.
If a scoliosis brace has been recommended for your child, you deserve a second opinion. Our programs replace bracing and surgery — and allow your child to be a child.
To learn more about our treatment options, click on any of the five buttons that follow.
Our approach to non-invasive scoliosis correction and prevention.
See the incredible story of identical twin sisters who beat scoliosis without surgery and without bracing.
Types of Scoliosis Braces
Though not recommended, below are some common types of scoliosis braces:
- Thoraco-Lumbo-Sacral-Orthosis (TLSO)
Known as a "Boston Brace"
- Providence Brace
- Charleston Bending Brace
Worn exclusively at night
- SpineCor Brace
Additional Scoliosis Resources
What is Scoliosis?
A Detailed Summary of Scoliosis
Scoliosis Fusion Surgery
Why Risks May Outweigh Benefits
Recent Improvements & Alternatives
Target the Causes of Progression
Treating the Condition
Degenerative & Idiopathic Treatments
Causes of Scoliosis
A Look at Brain/Muscle Communication
Information on Treatment Options
How to Stop Further Progression
Vitamins, Diet & Nutritional Supplements
Early Stage Scoliosis
Scoliosis Do's and Don'ts
Potentially Helpful & Harmful Activities
Frequently Asked Questions About Scoliosis
Vertebral Body Tethering or Stapling (VBT/VBS)