A musculoskeletal disorder that impacts the shape of the spine (backbone), scoliosis gives a side-to-side rather than front-to-back curvature of the spine. A spine afflicted with scolosis, therefore, may appear as the letter “C” or “S” rather then a straight line.

This condition affects the alignment of the body as well as balance and hampers the body’s ability to move naturally and normally. Two percent of people are affected by this condition—essentially a deformation of the spine—that develops most often before puberty. Sometimes traced to hereditary factors, it can also develop from degenerative disc disease or osteoporosis (secondary); be present at birth (congenital); occur when the muscles around the spine are failing, such as in people suffering from cerebral palsy or muscular dystrophy (myopathic); be the result of a spinal cord injury (paralytic); or come from an unknown cause (idiopathic, which accounts for 80 percent of cases in adolescents.)

In treating scoliosis, physicians must consider many factors; the cause and form of the condition; the location, shape and severity of curve; and whether or not the curvature is worsening with time. However, if the scoliosis is present in a child or adolescent who has not yet stopped growing, treatments will be unique. And part of this specific treatment may be the application of a bracing device, designed to hold the spine is a certain position in an effort to exert pressure on the growth plates evenly and prevent further abnormal curving of the spine while correcting the amount of the curve already present.

Bracing is typically recommended for patients who are experiencing a curve of between 25 and 45 degrees and whose bodies are not yet finished growing. When utilized appropriately—physicians will prescribe a certain time period for the use of the devices—braces are highly successful at preventing spinal curves from worsening as well as correcting existing spinal curves.

There are several different braces used to treat scoliosis, all dependent on several factors including the location and severity of the curve as well as the age of the sufferer. Types of the device include the Boston Brace (most used) which covers the portion of the body from under the shoulder blades to the tail bone; the Milwaukee Brace, which includes a pelvic girdle custom made to fit the patient’s body coupled with a neck ring that connects to bars in the back and front; the Charleston Bending Brace, which is worn at night and over-corrects the curve by forcing the patient to bend towards the outward bulge; the Providence Brace, similar to the Charleston Bending Brace in that it is also worn at night but is custom computer designed; and the Wilmington Brace, known as a total-contact “orthosis” that takes the form of a jacket with adjustable straps. Made of plastic, it covers the body from the thoracic area all the way to the sacrum.