Scoliosis is a condition in which the spine curves sideways and usually is first diagnosed in children or young teens. The degree of curvature can be slight and often causes no complications. More severe cases, however, can be disabling and may even compress the chest cavity, making breathing difficult. Different types of scoliosis correction are available to help straighten the spine and alleviate the resulting problems. One way to treat scoliosis is by using a back brace to prevent the spine from curving more severely. Surgery can also be an option, but is usually reserved for the most severe cases because complications are possible.
Many mild cases of scoliosis are not noticeable and do not cause any negative effects, so scoliosis correction may not be needed. Usually, it is important to have a medical checkup two or three times each year to make sure the curve is not worsening. Children whose bones are still growing or who have s-shaped curves are more likely to have worsening scoliosis, which may require treatment with a back brace. The brace does not reverse an existing spinal curve, but can prevent it from worsening. Braces usually need to be worn every day for as long as possible until a child's bones stop growing, usually sometime during puberty.
There are two main types of back braces used for scoliosis correction. The first is called an underarm or low-profile brace and treats curvature in the lower spine only. It is usually made of plastic and covers most of the torso, from under the shoulders to the hips. AS the brace fits closely to the body, it can usually be worn under clothing and is not easily noticed. Another type of brace is the Milwaukee brace, which is used if a low-profile brace will not be effective. It has bars that fit across the chest and back, along with supports for the chin and back of the head. The Milwaukee brace is more restrictive than the low-profile brace.
If the condition continues to worsen, another option for scoliosis correction is surgery. The procedure, called spinal fusion, can straighten the curvature or stop it from worsening. It involves connecting two of the vertebrae together to straighten the spine and keep it in place using pins or screws. Although it is usually successful, sometimes the surgery is not effective and a second procedure is needed. There are also potential risks, including infection and nerve damage.