Scoliosis is an incredibly complex condition involving much more than just the spinal column. There is no one magic adjustment or therapy which will work in every case. This is the reason why understanding our protocols & especially the science behind them is important. Scoliosis treatment must be customized to the particular, specific needs of each individual patient. However, there are certain key aspects of our protocols which are integral to achieving consistent, measurable success in scoliosis treatment.
Why treating a neurological problem physically doesn’t work
Bracing as a form of scoliosis treatment has been around for over 500 years, yet the results are is still unproven. Bracing more times than not adds more difficulties for the person wearing it. Things such as pain, discomfort, breathing problems, and weakened muscles. In terms of bracing preventing one from needing scoliosis surgery, still has not been proven.
So why is it still being recommended?
Scoliosis bracing is commonly recommended for ages ranging from 9-16 years old, and for curves ranging from 25 to 40 degrees. Considering scoliosis is a progressive disorder, the hope is that bracing will stop the progression. The biggest problem we see with bracing is that the braces themselves cause the muscles to atrophy. If you don’t use them (your spinal muscles) you lose them. If you have ever broken a bone you can relate to this. After breaking a bone and getting a cast put on for 4-6 weeks to allow the bone to heal what happens to the muscles? They shrink and atrophy sets in. The same thing takes place when your child wears a scoliosis brace for the suggested 18-23 hours a day.
This also describes why the scoliosis will typically rapidly progress once the brace is removed. Bracing will also typically cause extra degenerative changes to the spine considering it does not get the necessary movement it needs. This will also contribute to the rib deformity associated with scoliosis.
The majority of families or people seeking treatment options for their scoliosis, inevitably cross the path of having to decide on the use of recommended or prescribed scoliosis braces.
There are different types of braces out there, here are some to name a few:
- Copes Brace
- Boston Brace
- Spinecor Brace
- Milwaukee Brace
- Charleston Brace
Along with each brace, there is a plethora of promises for their intended use.
In our experience, and that of numerous patients around the world, all of whom were proposed with this treatment option, is that scoliosis bracing will not permanently stop the scoliosis from progressing. At best, bracing may slow down or momentarily stop the progressive nature of the Cobb angle (spinal curvature). Conversely what is less known, is that as soon as the brace is removed, the scoliosis promptly and rapidly progresses. This typically exceeds beyond where the scoliosis was before the brace was used in the first place.
Why Scoliosis Bracing Does Not Work, Providing False Hope
Before we can try to understand the abnormal spine, we have to be able to understand the normal spine. Biomechanically speaking, when looking at the spine from the side we are supposed to have 3 curves, one in the neck, mid-back, and low back. When we loses the good curves in the spine, the body will twist and turn to help take the adverse mechanical tension off the spinal cord. This results in bad curves (Scoliosis). Scoliosis bracing only looks at the spine as a lateral curve from the frontal view on an x-ray (coronal view), and neglects to acknowledge the other aspects of the spine that are preventing the scoliosis from reducing and stabilizing.
The spine is one continuous organ of the body broke into multiple different units. Therefore any scoliosis treatment that does not incorporate treating the entire spine will not be successful. Scoliosis does affect the entire spine. In turn, the entire spine must be addressed. Abnormal lateral curves of the cervical spine (neck), lumbar spine (low back) and hip rotation, must also be addressed and corrected for effective reduction of a scoliosis.
Spine Journal: September 2001
The Spine Journal of September 2001 has an article entitled ‘Effectiveness of Bracing Male Patients with Idiopathic Scoliosis’. It states: “Progression of 6 degrees occurred in 74% of boys and 46% reached surgical thresholds. Bracing of male patients with Idiopathic Scoliosis is ineffective.“
In another article the ‘Children’s Research Center in Dublin, Ireland’ states “Since 1991 bracing has not been recommended for children with AIS (Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis) at this center. It cannot be said to provide meaningful advantage to the patient or the community.”
It takes bravery and a proactive mindset on the part of parents and persons with scoliosis to turn from standard practices that have been used (though ineffective) for years, and seek out a safe and effective treatment for the successful reduction of scoliosis.
Scoliosis and Bracing — One Woman’s Story
In a very unfortunate article, “Scoliosis Changed My Whole Life — Like it does Many, Many Women”, Leah LaRocco, dives into detail about her scoliosis story and how bracing affected her life. Posted: 03/20/2013 11:48 am EDT
My journey with Scoliosis began the day I went to the doctor following a bout with Lyme Disease at 12 years old. A routine physical exam exposed a small curvature in the bottom of my spine. My doctor advised us to consult an orthopedic surgeon who in turn suggested coming in every few months for x-rays to monitor the progress of the curve. Thus began the part of my adolescence I prefer to forget, to sweep under the rug and pretend it never happened.
She then shares her experience with scoliosis bracing:
I refer to the back brace as a modern day straight jacket for teenage girls. If you do a Google image search for “scoliosis back brace” you will be confronted with a series of pictures that depict what look like medieval torture devices. The amazing thing is that, 20 years later, the treatment options for Scoliosis remain the same: back brace or surgery.
The brace that I wore was composed of hard plastic that covered my chest and went down past my hips. The icing on the cake was the three huge Velcro straps used to tighten the brace so the internal pressure pads could do their job, constricting motion and muscles that might cause the curves to grow. Finding clothes to cover the edges of the brace was a near impossibility and I cried many times in front of the mirror when figuring out what to wear.
Wearing this shell sixteen hours a day for two years was a living nightmare for an introverted, active teen who played a sport and loved being outdoors. Over the course of my treatment, all of the doctors I worked with were men. As puberty hit and my breasts grew, I was in constant pain from the chafing plastic. Appointments were made, humiliating measurements were taken where a man would stand, hand on chin, furrowed brow, trying to determine how to melt the plastic in such a way that would make room for my aching chest.
Sleeping at night also presented its own set of challenges. If I lay on my side, the pressure pads would dig into my body, leaving bruises. If I lay on my back, the top of the brace would dig into my neck. If I lay on my stomach, the front of the brace would constrict and pinch my skin. I wore cotton tees under the brace that were soaked with sweat every morning. I felt totally gross.
After the failed bracing attempt, and being recommended for surgery, Leah decided not to pursue the surgery.
Today I still have three small scars that were a result of the back brace; two on my back, and one on my stomach. The scars on my body are nothing compared to the emotional scars that Scoliosis left on me. Being a teenage girl is one of the hardest things ever. There is so much pressure to be popular, smart, and beautiful. Development of self-esteem is either encouraged or damaged during those fragile years, and being different isn’t something that is always looked on favorably.
It was impossible to feel pretty or cool when I was wearing that brace. I felt hollow and insecure. It’s horrifying to me that girls today still have to fasten the same Velcro straps I did twenty years ago.
When I was going through all of this, my parents were by my side doing the best they could to see me through the challenges. My mom took me to every doctor appointment while I cried and yelled and cursed at her on the way to their offices. There was so much anger inside of me, so much hurt and pain that I couldn’t convey for having to wear this device, for having to deal with unemotional doctors who had nothing to say to a scared teenage girl who just wanted to be normal.
Leah’s story is sadly very common for scoliosis patients and the treatment options they are offered
I now go to the chiropractor every two weeks for an adjustment and therapeutic massage, which has helped enormously when it comes to managing lower back and neck pain. Some weeks I go in and feel fine until my therapist touches a muscle in just the right way and I suddenly realize the muted pain I’ve been carrying around.
I have very few limitations as a result of my Scoliosis, but I am always aware it’s there. I fervently hope that someday a more effective, less tortuous treatment option will become available for young girls who find themselves where I was twenty years ago. Until that day comes, family and close friends who demonstrate compassionate kindness are the healing balm, along with the understanding that this too shall pass.
Read the entire article here from the source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/20/scoliosis-changed-my-life-women-girls_n_2909904.html
Bracing is NOT your only option!