"Brace n. an orthopedic appliance used to support, align, or hold a bodily part in the correct position."
Many doctors suggest bracing when the curvature is between 25 and 40 degrees and the patient is still growing. A patient is generally prescribed a back-brace, which is plastic and will be custom fitted. The usual recommendation is for it to be worn for 22/23 hours a day. Generally they are only removed for exercise (e.g. swimming), though sometimes (especially near the end of treatment) they may be reduced to night-wear only.
In the UK most specialists will use the Boston Brace and in the USA the Milwaukee Brace, although others are available, such as the Cheneau brace used alongside the Katharina Schroth method.
If bracing is successful it will prevent the curvature from progressing, and therefore could decrease the chance of needing further treatment. However under no circumstances will Boston or Milwaukee braces lessen the curve, although the Cheneau brace has been shown to improve curves two years after wearing.
Although many doctors have successfully maintained their patients' curves and will highly recommend it, others say that in a lot of cases bracing can be counter-productive. This is because the psychological damage can often out-way any benefits gained. Also the muscles in the back become weak and therefore, once conventional bracing ceases, the curvature could progress very quickly and would need severe treatment to curtail it. See Bracing Problems.
So my advice is, as always, do your research around the subject and decide for yourself. After all it is your body and you are the one who is going to live with the results for the rest of your life, so make yourself well informed about both sides of the story!!!
The Facts Orthopedists Never Tell You About!!!
(This article is not recommended reading for those just about to undergo or undergoing bracing treatment)
"I have included this section because I feel it is important that people have the opportunity to become aware and informed about bracing and to understand that when one makes a decision it is vital to research the problems as well as the benefits of a chosen treatment. Unfortunately orthotists always make known the benefits, but will not divulge the risks unless closely questioned. Therefore I have compiled this article on research I have undertaken myself from various reliable medical sources."
Most children are put in a brace at 10 or 11 - this commits the child and their family to 6 or 7 years of bracing, which to anyone's mind is quite a formidable prospect.
A brace is not a natural form of treatment by a long way, but some are more unnatural than others. For instance the Boston and Milwaukee bracing involves a plastic and polystyrene corset being worn for 23 hours a day - during the treatment period. Bracing of this kind damages the body in some form or other - despite the fact that all orthotists will deny it.
The only time Boston and Milwaukee bracing could be necessary and beneficial, is during the night when it is not possible to be aware of one's posture. However to encase a body in a corset for 23 hours a day is both mentally and physically damaging.
Mentally it is damaging as it is worn during teenage years when appearance is at its most important and it prevents one from wearing most teenage fashion clothes, which would not hide the brace. They can often be a great source of embarrassment and shame and patients often refuse to wear them because they are afraid they will be teased by their peers.
Physically it is damaging because it is done-up so tightly, under the pretence of holding the curve, the brace is in fact weakening the muscles all around the back, so that once the bracing is eventually stopped there are no strong muscles to hold and support the back. The curvature immediately becomes a lot worse in a short space of time, due to this lack of support and ends up requiring more serious treatment (usually an operation) being needed.
A brace also restricts breathing and decreases lung capacity, it also prohibits 'deep' breathing and instead a patient has to start 'shallow' breathing - which is bad news if you play a wind or brass instrument. It also restricts movement, and is impossible to play sports in. After sitting still for more than 40 minutes it stops the blood circulating properly and causes numbing and pricking.
So for a lot of cases, especially where the patient is growing fast, bracing is not the best and by no means the most pleasant course of treatment for a patient.