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Spinal Bracing for Scoliosis in Phoenix

If you are diagnosed with a spinal disorder or deformity, you may need external structural support to keep your back safe and allow your body to heal from an existing condition. The most common option is a spinal brace, which limits the movement around your spine. If your physician believes you need structural support around the back or neck, they may recommend spinal bracing.

The use of braces is widely accepted. They are safe, non-invasive, and effective tools in the treatment of spine disorders. Braces have actually been around for centuries. Corsets for the lower back were used as far back as 2000 B.C.! Bandage and splint braces were used in 500 A.D. in an effort to correct scoliosis.

There are more than 30 types of back supports available for spine disorders. Below, we will discuss several common types of spinal braces and why they are used.

Clinical Uses for Spinal Bracing

 Spinal braces or supports are commonly used to treat conditions such as:

  •  Low back pain
  • Trauma
  • Spinal infections
  • Muscular weakness
  • Neck conditions
  • Osteoporosis.

Spinal orthotics such as braces, belts, and jackets are designed to immobilize and support the spine to prevent excessive movement. Depending on the model that is used, the spinal brace can put the spine in a neutral, upright, hyper-extended, flexed, or lateral flexed position.

 Goals of Spinal Bracing

Spinal bracing is used for a variety of reasons:

  • Pain management
  • Reduce the risk of further spinal injury
  • Create a healing environment for the spinal structures
  • Compensate for muscle weakness
  • Prevent or correct a deformity

More specifically, lumbar corsets and braces compress the abdomen, which increases the intra-abdominal pressure. This act allows pressure on the vertebral column to unload, providing some relief.

There are other reasons why bracing is used in the management of spinal conditions. One is the theory that they insulate the skin, producing increased warmth which in turn decreases the sensation of pain – much like a heating pad. Another reason is that the increase in abdominal pressure produces hydraulic support for the back.

Finally, certain types of movement may cause stress to the pain generators in the back. The decrease in certain ranges of motion through bracing may relieve this type of pain.

Pros and Cons of Spinal Bracing

There are many benefits to spinal bracing or spinal orthotics, including pain relief, confidence in movement, and reduced susceptibility to further injury.

Though the effects of bracing are primarily positive, back braces can lead to a loss of muscle function due to inactivity. In some cases, bracing can lead to psychological addiction. When this happens, the patient is dependent on the back brace, even when their body is healed and ready to support itself.

TLSO SPINAL BRACE

The decision to brace is important in the treatment of adolescent scoliosis. The goal of bracing is to prevent the existing curvature from progressing while the patient is growing. Bracing is usually done for a scoliosis curvature measured from 25◦ to 40◦ or curves that show progression over time. Population based studies have shown a high likelihood of adult progression when these curvatures are left alone in adolescence to curves often needing surgical correction. Bracing is done to halt this progression in hopes of avoiding eventual surgery. Curves that are 30° to 35° may progress into adulthood and can cause increasing back pain, accelerated disc degeneration, and deformity. Surgery for adolescent idiopathic scoliosis is usually necessary for curves larger than 40° to 45 degrees. Bracing is not recommended for larger curves as it will not change the need for surgical correction.

Your doctor will advise if a custom made back brace is appropriate for your child’s treatment.

For patients who need a brace, a light weight thoracolumbosacral (TLSO) brace is most commonly used. This lightweight brace is custom molded to the patient’s body and is worn under clothes. The brace is most effective when worn constantly and should be worn as much as possible. We recommend 22-23 hours a day. The child may still participate in most sports and activities and on average come out of the brace for hygiene and an hour for activity.

In 2013, a New England Journal of Medicine study was published on the Effects of Bracing in Adolescents with Idiopathic Scoliosis. This study was a multi center study in the US and Canada that looked at outcome differences in patients instructed to wear a rigid brace for at least 18 hours a day versus an observation group. Treatment failure was measured as curve progression to 50 degrees or more. Treatment success was defined as skeletal maturity without this degree of curve progression. The target population was patients with high-risk adolescent idiopathic scoliosis who met brace indications. The majority of patients were placed in a TLSO brace. This trial was actually stopped early because initial results showed a convincing and significant level of effectiveness of bracing. Treatment success was 72% after bracing and only 48% after observation. There was also a positive association between the hours a brace was worn and the rate of treatment success. This study clearly demonstrates the effectiveness of using a TLSO brace and also confirms that the longer you wear the brace, the more success we will have in preventing curve progression.

For more information on custom-made back braces in Phoenix, or to discuss a TLSO spinal brace, contact our clinic.

Arizona Spinal Bracing Specialist | Phoenix Spine Surgeons

 Spinal bracing is a safe and effective way to help manage certain spinal conditions. If clinically appropriate, your doctor can help you choose the right brace for your specific medical needs to aid recovery. To discuss spinal orthotics with our spine brace specialist based in Phoenix, contact our team today.