What is a Scoliosis Back Brace?

Hillary Flynn

Scoliosis is a lateral or side-to-side curvature of the spine, which is a column of small bones called vertebrae that are stacked upon one another. The spine, or vertebral column, is the main skeletal support of the human body; it begins at the back of the neck and extends to the top of the buttocks. Though every spine has natural front to back curves, if lateral curves form as the spine grows during adolescence, a scoliosis back brace may be prescribed to correct the curves. Left uncorrected, pronounced curves can cause imbalance, muscle weakness, and pain, and even interfere with breathing in extreme cases.

Scoliosis causes curvature of the spine.
Scoliosis causes curvature of the spine.

A scoliosis back brace is the typical treatment used for curves that reach 25 degrees. Once it is determined this is the appropriate course of treatment, a scoliosis back brace is generally worn until the spine stops growing. This often means a brace is worn for several years. Most braces are worn at all times, including during sleep, though they can be removed when bathing. This is important because the goal is to keep the spine properly aligned at all times, which encourages it to grow straight. However, some patients may be permitted to remove the brace for an hour or two a day to participate in activities such as swimming.

Back braces may be worn to treat scoliosis.
Back braces may be worn to treat scoliosis.

In the past, the only type of scoliosis back brace available was the Milwaukee brace. Though effective, this brace is rather bulky and has metal bars immobilizing the neck that are impossible to disguise. Now, the most common brace is the Boston brace. This is called a low-profile brace because it begins under the arms and can be completely covered with clothing. This type of brace is form-fitting and made with a plastic that is a bit more forgiving and comfortable. There are also some braces that are worn only at night, such as the Charleston or Providence, but these are not utilized as frequently as the Boston brace.

A scoliosis back brace is generally worn over a t-shirt or undershirt, preferably 100% cotton, to prevent skin irritation. Patients are encouraged to keep up with brace cleaning and maintenance, and to closely monitor skin to prevent issues. Wearing the brace as tightly as possible will prevent rubbing. The brace can be a bit uncomfortable at first because it does restrict movement somewhat, but most scoliosis patients are able to resume all their usual activities once they adjust to the brace.

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Discussion Comments


I hope that all preteen kids are either screened for possible scoliosis at school or at yearly physical exams. With so many people without any medical insurance or limited insurance, all children may not get into the doctor yearly to get a check. I know when I was in junior high, we were all screened by the school nurse for signs of scoliosis.

Adults who have had untreated scoliosis and have completed their growing time, can have real problems with their backs later on.


It's certainly a good thing that they have figured out some new designs for scoliosis back braces. The old variety were uncomfortable and cumbersome, besides showing through clothing.

I remember a couple of girls who had to wear these kind, and they had such a difficult time doing things and they looked so uncomfortable. Unfortunately, there were always comments about the brace from other kids.

The two new varieties sound so much better.But there is still some restriction in their movement and ability to do activities in the way they want.

Kids are resilient and adapt to new situations fairly easily. Thank goodness for that.


My daughter was in her teens before they discovered she had a slight curvature to her spine. They called it lumbar scoliosis, but said it was not severe enough that she needed to wear a brace.

Because of this, and since she didn't have too many years of growing left, they recommended to just watch it.

They also said to make sure she had a hard bed to sleep on because a soft mattress was not good for this problem. Another thing they mentioned was to make sure her backpack was not too heavy.

If her scoliosis gets worse, a back brace is something she would need to consider. I know wearing braces for scoliosis can be very helpful - especially if they are young and they are still growing.

This is something she needs to have checked every year to make sure it does not progress to the point of needing to wear a brace.


Even though having scoliosis is not terminal, it is certainly life changing. My son has juvenile scoliosis and this has been a difficult adjustment for him.

He has been wearing a back brace for his scoliosis for a couple of years now. I am thankful for the changes in these back braces, as he can wear his brace without it being too noticeable.

For someone as active as he is, it can be quite frustrating at times. It is hard for a young child to understand how important this is to keep his spine straight and aligned.

Anything that sets him apart as different from the other kids his age, can be a hard thing to accept.

I have seen adults who had scoliosis as a child continue to have back problems, so am trying to do everything I can to prevent this from happening to him later on down the road.

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