General Wear and Care Instructions
Scoliosis bracing is a team effort. Participation of all team members - patients, family members, physicians, orthotists, nurses, etc. - is very important for success.
Goal of Treatment
The goal of treatment is to keep your curve from getting any bigger and to avoid the need for surgery. For example, if you start bracing with a 35 degree curve, the goal is to keep your curve as close to 35 degrees as possible. Bracing typically does not correct the curve. Occasionally, some correction can achieved, but this depends on many factors and should not be expected.
In order to be effective, the brace must be worn for many hours every day while you are still growing. Your doctor will tell you exactly how many hours to wear the brace each day. Once your doctor determines that you have stopped growing, he/she will instruct you to begin weaning out of your brace.
When scoliosis is first diagnosed, several appointments are needed. These appointments include brace fitting, brace adjustments, and in-brace x-rays. In general, you will return at least four times a year during the course of your scoliosis treatment. Make sure that you bring your brace to every appointment.
Duration of Treatment
The duration of your bracing treatment depends on how much growth you have remaining. While you are growing, your scoliosis curve wants to grow with you. This is why you have to wear a brace during this time. The brace helps your spine grow as straight and tall as possible.
Generally speaking, girls tend to finish growing at a younger age than boys. Once you stop growing, your healthcare team will give you instructions about how to wean out of your brace. By slowing reducing your hours over time, you will reduce muscle soreness.
How does your doctor know how much growth you have left?
Although your healthcare team cannot tell you how many more inches you will grow, they do have an idea of if you are still growing or not. Your healthcare team will track your height changes and look at several growth markers to determine if you have a lot of growth remaining or if you are done growing. For girls, your period is another indication of growth and maturity. This is why your healthcare providers often ask when you got your first period. To learn more about growth markers, head over to our X-Ray Information page.
Putting on the Brace
Your scoliosis brace is made to hold your back as straight as possible while you are growing to keep your curve from increasing in size. To do this, it must be worn tightly and for many hours each day.
Wear a tight-fitting undershirt. Open up the brace and slide it around your body. Move the brace up or down until the waist rolls fit in your waist between your ribs and the bottom of your hip bones. Tighten the straps to the lines marked by your orthotist. If the undershirt wrinkles or has seams, pull on the fabric to smooth them out.
If You Have Trouble Tightening the Brace
Have a helper pull the sides of the brace together while tightening the straps. If your straps are in the front, you can also try to lie down and tighten the straps. This will help to elongate your body by removing gravity from the equation.
Getting Used to Your Brace
Getting used to wearing your brace will take some time. Follow your doctor and your orthotist's instructions for getting used to the brace. Generally speaking, you will gradually increase how many hours you're wearing your brace until you reach the goal number of hours as prescribed by your doctor.
Every time you take off your brace, check your skin for redness. There will be areas of redness where the brace is pushing against your curve, but this redness should fade away in about 45 minutes. If you develop a bruise, blister, or sore, contact your orthotist so an adjustment can be made.
Taking Care of Your Skin
The brace pushes firmly on your body and will cause redness on your skin. Over time, the skin in the pressure areas may become darkened and tougher. These changes are temporary.
Especially when you first start wearing a brace, do not use lotion on your torso. The lotion will soften your skin and make it more prone to irritation and breakdown.
If at any time you develop a bruise, blister, or sore, contact your orthotist so an adjustment can be made.
Always wear a tight fitting shirt underneath your brace. If you do not want your brace to be noticeable, stick with clothes that are more loose fitting. Bras without underwire may be more comfortable. To making going to the bathroom easier, some people wear their shorts on top of the brace.
Cleaning the Brace
To help prevent skin irritation, the inside of the brace must be cleaned at least once a week, or more often as needed. Use a cloth or cotton pad to wipe the brace clean with rubbing alcohol.