Spinal Bracing

Orthopedists often treat young patients with scoliosis using spinal bracing. This non-surgical approach stops curves from getting worse. But it can’t get rid of a curve that has already developed. We often use this approach for children and adolescents who are still growing and have mild or moderate curves that will likely get worse.

Your child will wear the brace on the upper body. There are two types of braces: plastic braces (also called rigid braces) and soft elastic ones (also called dynamic braces). The brace may be padded for comfort. Most kids wear a seamless shirt under the brace for comfort. Try to find a shirt that doesn’t wrinkle.

Getting the Right Brace

The orthopedist will decide on the right type of brace for your child. An orthoptist will make a custom brace, based on your doctor’s instructions. Your child may need another brace as they grow.

Your orthopedist will consider several factors when deciding on a brace:

  • Age of the child (how much more the child will likely grow); usually they will only brace a child with at least two years of growth left
  • How the curve is affecting the child's life
  • Likelihood that the curve will progress
  • Location of the curve (curves in the mid-back—thoracic spine—are more likely to get worse than curves in the low-back or lumbar spine
  • Severity of the curve; braces work best on curves of 25 to 45 degrees
  • Any other medical conditions your child has

Most children and adolescents wear a brace until they stop growing, which is usually about age 15 for girls and 17 for boys.

Using the Brace Correctly

Your doctor will also tell your child how many hours a day they should wear the brace and for how long. Some children wear the brace 23 hours a day. If your child has a concern, such as wanting to swim, talk with your doctor to adjust the schedule. Here are some tips:

Wear It Properly: To do the most good, the brace must be tight, but not uncomfortably so.  

Hiding the Brace: Children and teens may be embarrassed about being seen in a brace. Wearing loose-fitting clothing will make the brace less obvious. Consider getting clothing a size or two larger than what your child typically wears.  

Playing Sports: Most kids can play sports while they’re being treated with a brace. But your child may need to take the brace off during the activity. Check with your doctor.

Washing the Brace: Clean the brace every day. You can use rubbing alcohol, either misting it with a spray bottle or scrubbing with a washcloth. The brace will dry quickly so your child can put it back on.