What kind of a brace will I need and why?
There are many types of braces, all designed to prevent curves from increasing as the adolescent grows. Your doctor will work with an orthotist (a professional who makes assistive devices like braces) to recommend the best type of brace for you. The kind of brace you need depends upon several factors, such as:
- Where your curve is located on your spine
- The flexibility of your curve
- The number of curves you have
- The position and rotation of some of the vertebrae in your spine
- Any other medical conditions you may have
What does a brace look like?
There are two major kinds of braces: plastic (rigid) braces and soft (dynamic) elastic braces.
- A rigid brace is like a shell that covers the front and back of your upper bodygenerally from under the armpits down to the pelvis. The brace usually fastens with three Velcro straps, and can easily be removed to take showers or do other activities.
- Some plastic braces appear straight (symmetrical), while others curve in and out (asymmetrical).
- The soft braces use elastic straps, Velcro, and various smaller plastic or metal pieces to put the brace into the shape that is best for your type of curve, and help keep it in place as you move around.
- Whether you need a plastic or soft brace, your orthotist will custom-make your brace to comfortably fit your body.
Does bracing work?
Several research studies show that bracing for scoliosis can keep your spinal curve from growing large enough to require surgery. Your curve will most likely get smaller as it is being held in the brace. When your spine is fully grown and you stop wearing the brace, your scoliosis curve will eventually go back to its original size. In some cases, the curve stays smaller after bracing treatment. There are some cases, however, where the curve continues to grow even though a brace is worn. So bracing can work, but doctors need more research to show when and how bracing can be even more effective.
How long will I need to wear the brace? Can I wear it at night only?
You need to wear a brace until your spine stops growing. This timing varies quite a bit from person to person. Your doctor will check your brace and the status of your growth every 4 to 6 months. The amount of time each day that you have to wear the brace depends upon several things, including your growth and the type of brace you wear. The most common daytime braces are worn 16 to 23 hours each day. Some braces are worn only while you sleep, but they do not work for all curve types. Your doctor will advise you about which brace and wearing time is best for you. What will it be like to wear a brace? It may take some practice to get used to putting on your brace, but soon you will become an expert at it. Clothes in loose-fitting styles will easily cover your brace. As long as your doctor approves, you will be able to remove your brace to play sports or do other recreational activities.
What happens if I don’t wear a brace?
If your doctor recommends a brace and you choose not to wear it, then you run the risk of your curve getting larger. Depending on how big your curve gets, you may need surgery to correct it. Or you may choose to do nothing about the curve and run the risk of it continuing to increase. This may cause various medical and quality of life issues later in your life.