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Scoliosis Braces:
Are They Outdated & Ineffective


Dr. Clayton J. Stitzel


October 6, 2023

Table of Contents

What is a scoliosis brace and how does it work?

A scoliosis brace is a device used to correct or prevent the progression of spinal curvature in individuals with scoliosis. It works by applying pressure to the spine, helping to straighten and align it. The brace is typically worn for several hours each day, depending on the severity of the condition.

Full-time scoliosis braces often cause more problems than they solve. Pain that didn’t exist before, breathing problems, weakened muscles, and even psychological scarring. Most shockingly, back braces for scoliosis aren’t proven to prevent scoliosis surgery, either.

Full-time back bracing is an overused treatment method that needs to be limited to a very narrow range of scoliosis cases:

  • Very early-stage growth (Risser sign 0-2)
  • Curves greater than 25 degrees, but less than 40 degrees on x-ray

Scoliosis brace treatment has existed for more than 450 years. Yet its success is still controversial. Much of the research conducted on back braces for scoliosis reveals mixed and contradictory results. Also, studies are demonstrating the negative physical, emotional, and psychological effects scoliosis bracing has on children and teens. It has become clear that a better way for treating scoliosis, effective treatment, needs to be developed based on the latest science and technology.

Even if bracing was 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. 

ScoliSMART Activity Suit

What are the different types of braces for scoliosis?

There are many different types of back braces for scoliosis, including the Boston Brace 3D. Some patients and parents would say there are “too many” to choose from. Each has different attributes that may seem more beneficial or desirable in some way. One source of confusion for many is the tradition of naming the brace after the city where it came from. This is how we get brace names like “Boston Brace,” “Wilmington Brace,” “Milwaukee Brace” and “Charleston Bending Brace.” Only recently have newer scoliosis back braces from privately owned orthotists taken on more “marketing style” names like “SpineCor Brace”, “WRC brace” and “ScoliBrace”. These back braces claim to work better, because of their custom-fit process. The Boston Brace 3D, a type of Boston Brace developed at Boston Children’s Hospital in the 1970s, is one such example of a brace that has evolved with technology to its present form with three-dimensional spinal correction.

the different types of braces

Scoliosis bracing constricts breathing and may increase the rib hump!

Braces like the most common thoracolumbar-sacral-orthosis (TLSO) brace squeeze and mold to the chest wall and abdomen. A Norwegian study of the TLSO found it decreases breathing capacity. Breathing impacts thoracic, muscle and fat composition, and cognitive performance. One study showed that children who wore a hard brace had a 30% decrease in vital capacity (VC). Also, a 45% decrease in expiratory reserve volume (the air you can push out after a normal exhale). These decreases in pulmonary function are identical to those 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 demonstrable. More modern options for treating your child’s scoliosis condition are available. Scoliosis-specific nutrient therapies, combined with scoliosis-specific core strengthening exercises and the use of physical therapy, can halt curve progression and reduce spine curves.

Why is a Scoliosis Brace Recommended? 

Bracing is recommended for children in early-stage growth with a scoliotic curve between 25 and 40 degrees. The “hope” is that bracing, such as hard plastic braces, metal braces, and even softer dynamic braces, will delay or halt curve progression, since the condition is progressive. One major problem with braces is they cause muscles to weaken, leading to discomfort. When you don’t use your muscles, they atrophy. For example, when your arm is in a cast, the muscles inside the cast become small and weak. This is what happens when your child wears a brace for the recommended 18-23 hours a day. Your provider will send your child to an orthotist, an orthopedist who specializes in braces, to be fitted. Some hospitals have in-house orthotics experts who can make braces in a day. In other cases, it may take a few weeks to make a brace.

It also explains why the curve worsens once the brace treatment is taken off. In a brace treatment, your child’s spine becomes stiff. Joints don’t get necessary movement and they often develop more degenerative issues. Bracing also puts stress on the ribs and causes a rib hump. Doctors almost always recommend removing the brace treatment when they see this negative change using 3D x-rays, yet the damage may have already occurred.

Alternatives to scoliosis bracing (for kids and adults!)

At ScoliSMART Clinics, we teach your child exercise treatment options that creates new muscle memory to hold the spine straighter. Our Early Stage Intervention and Scoliosis Boot Camp programs halt curve progression, reduce curvature, pain relief, and improve your child’s breathing. We also decrease each child’s curve rigidity to help reduce spinal curvatures even more! 

The ScoliSMART activity suit and exercises work with the natural torque pattern of the body to create new posture memory and core muscle strength. The new posture memory helps the spine unwind, stabilizes asymmetrical muscles, and reduces curvature without pressure or pain. The ScoliSMART Activity Suit in combination with the Scoliosis “Boot Camp” program works well for patients under the age of 18. It can even be used for kids with mild curves and allows them to resume their normal activities, without limiting physical activity. It is also available to adult patients (even post fusion) looking for back support to help relieve back pain. The ScoliSMART activity suit and exercises are also effective alternative for patients who require a cervical-thoracic-lumbar-sacral orthosis (CTLSO) for treatment.


Now it’s even easier to connect with ScoliSMART. Schedule your no-cost, no-obligation phone or Zoom consultation online with a ScoliSMART physician. Visit the ScoliSMART BootCamp page and click the “Schedule Online” button at the top of the page. Then select the best date and time to connect with a physician. Schedule your consultation right here!


Proactive Scoliosis Treatment

Children with mild or moderate curves benefit most from ScoliSMART exercises. This is because their bones are not yet deformed by months or years of compensating for abnormal twisting and bending of the spine. We use proactive treatment solutions such as genetic testing, nutrient therapies, and the ScoliSMART Activity Suit. Remember, all kids who have large spinal curves started out with small curves first! If a brace was suggested for your child, you deserve a second opinion. Our programs can replace full time bracing and surgery, or be combined with standard nighttime bracing treatment — and allow your kid to still be a kid. Additionally, these proactive treatments can improve mobility and quality of life for children with scoliosis, leading to curve reduction.

What to expect from bracing

Don’t know where to start?  Take our FREE “ScoliQuiz.”  (No x-ray required)

ScoliSMART Clinics is committed to treating the WHOLE scoliosis condition, not only the curve. Genetic & clinical testing with targeted nutrient therapies, expert in-office treatment programs, and the world’s only ScoliSMART Activity Suit provides patients of all ages with the most comprehensive, most effective, and least invasive treatment options available worldwide.

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