Bracing for idiopathic scoliosis
The goal of bracing is to stop your scoliosis curve from increasing as you grow. Bracing is a nonsurgical scoliosis treatment for children who:
- Have been diagnosed with idiopathic scoliosis
- Are still growing
- Have spinal curves between 20 and 40 degrees
Our specialists most often recommend a thoraco-lumbar-sacral orthosis (TLSO) brace for children with scoliosis. In some cases of primary curves in the lumbar spine (lower spine), we may also consider using a nighttime-only brace.
Frequently asked question about bracing for idiopathic scoliosis
Why do I need to wear a brace?
Bracing can reduce the risk of your scoliosis curve increasing. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that wearing a brace properly reduces the risk of curve progression by about 50%.
There is no guarantee that bracing will completely stop your scoliosis curve from increasing, but it helps in most cases. We understand that not knowing if bracing will work is challenging for you and your family. What we do know is that following your doctor’s treatment plan is the key to improving your situation as much as possible.
How many hours a day do I have to wear my brace?
Research shows that the more you wear the brace, the more effective it will be at preventing scoliosis from getting worse:
- Less than 12 hours a day = no benefit
- 12 to 16 hours a day = potential to stop the curve from getting bigger
- 16 to 23 hours a day = maximum benefit
Your orthotist (the professional who makes the brace) applies a monitor in your brace. It has small thermal (heat) sensors that record the internal temperature of the brace.
The sensors provide valuable information that help you and your doctor see your wear time and patterns. They don’t track where you go or what you do. They only measure temperature in the brace, which corresponds to wearing or not wearing the brace.
When can I stop wearing the brace?
You'll wear your brace until most of your growth is done, or if your curve keeps increasing even after wearing the brace. Your doctor will talk with you about how long you can expect to wear your brace.
What if the brace is uncomfortable?
It may take some time to get used to wearing your brace. Movements like bending down and sitting on the floor will feel different at first. Don't worry — you’ll adjust to these changes.
Your orthotist will give you instructions on gradually getting used to the brace. Contact the orthotist if you notice any areas of concern, such as redness or tightening in an area. We may need to adjust the brace in between check-ups with your provider.
Can I still participate in activities and sports?
Yes. It's important to continue sports and physical activities, which improve your overall health and well-being. You can take off your brace during exercise. Taking off your brace allows the muscles in your core to get stronger.
Core muscles are the muscles that surround your back, abdomen, pelvis and hips. The core is the body's center of strength.
Having good core strength decreases the workload and stress on your lower back. Your exercise program should involve stretching and strengthening these muscles. Watch our core exercise videos to learn 12 exercises for strengthening your back.
It's ok to take your brace off during:
- Showering and bathing
- Physical education class
- Special occasions determined by you and your family
Will everybody know that I'm wearing a brace?
Braces are low profile and accommodate active lifestyles. They aren't as noticeable as you might think. There may be times when friends or people around you notice the brace, like when you change for PE class, for example. If they do notice your brace, just remember that they are curious, and a brace is nothing to be embarrassed about.
If you wear a loose-fitting shirt, it's often hard to see the brace. We recommend wearing a shirt under the brace that wicks moisture away. Use a shirt made from a high-performance material usually found at sporting goods stores, or even a tight-fitting cotton T-shirt to absorb moisture. The shirt should be seamless to prevent wrinkling and discomfort.