Back bracing for scoliosis is a hot topic, and I’m often asked for my opinion. This is always a tough subject for me to comment on because each and every case of scoliosis is different. Before I get into my personal views, I’d like to share thoughts and information from several trusted sources:
Dr. Marc Moramarco, the only Schroth practitioner in the U.S. who is approved to make the current Schroth brace, has a very informative chart that compares the most popular current braces on the market. As you can see, the Cheneau-Gensingen brace is the clear leader. The problem is that you’d have to see Dr. Moramarco in Boston to get your brace — which, I suppose, is better than having to travel to Gensingen, Germany, to see Dr. Hans-Rudolph Weiss (the grandson of Katharina Schroth), the only other maker of this particular brace.
If your child’s pediatrician or orthopedist suggests brace treatment for your child with scoliosis, chapter eight from the recent Schroth Therapy book, entitled Brace Treatment, is a great read that includes research, years of experience and case studies, along with photos, from around the world.
In her book Scolio-Pilates, Karena Thek Lineback says, “The relationship between reduced vital capacity and a frozen ribcage inevitably brings up the question of bracing for scoliosis. My friend just broke her ribs and the doctor would not even tape them. He said, “Taping is outdated and taped ribs can result in respiratory dysfunctions like pneumonia.” If it’s not wise to tape broken ribs for a few weeks, how is it wise to brace a scoliotic spine for a few years?”
An interview with Robert Pashman, M.D. Scoliosis Specialist and Surgeon is also included in Karena’s aforementioned book. While the entire interview is interesting, I’d like to note his comment of “Because having scoliosis gives a pretty big psychological hit, being braced takes more of a psychological hit. That’s why I’m not so hip on it.”
Emelia Gorecka is a former junior European cross-country champion and had to wear a brace for 23 hours a day. Gorecka’s bio recounts how she stayed physically at the top of her game while having a great sense of humor about her scoliosis and brace. Whether you decide to get a back brace or not, her story is definitely a worthwhile read.
As I previously mentioned, each case is different which makes it difficult to take a firm stance for or against bracing. There are many monetary, emotional and physical factors that need to be taken into consideration.
Since most back braces are not covered by insurance, the monetary burden of getting a brace can be very heavy for some families. In The Beautiful Scoliotic Back, I recount a story about a young male client of mine whose family struggled to pay for a brace, which caused a great deal of emotional distress for the family — especially when the boy refused to wear it.
You can’t blame the kid — adolescence is hard enough, and then adding a hard plastic brace that makes him feel like an outsider? I don’t think any child would would happily sign up for that. Just because it can help somebody physically, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the right option. Emotional stability plays a bigger role in bracing than one might think. Should one pursue bracing, they’ve got to have a plan on how to stay strong and how to stay emotionally balanced. As I mentioned before, Emelia Gorecka tackled it with a great sense of humor and positive attitude, which was crucial for her success. To help work through the emotions of scoliosis, I’d recommend picking up My Scoli Journal to help along the journey.
Lastly, I want to mention a client of mine who has a 75-degree scoliotic curve. Even though she is in her 20s and past puberty, she wears a Cheneau-Gensingen brace from Dr. Moramarco at night to sleep, which she loves. It gives her extra support for her very scoliotic spine. Since her diagnosis as a teenager, her parents have spent approximately $50,000 on different types of braces and therapies because none of them will accept surgery as an option for stabilizing her scoliosis. Some of the braces and therapies were helpful, and some did nothing for her, while some actually made her curves worse. She started regularly working with me months ago and we began seeing a real change in her back. Her scoliometer readings were showing a 10-degree rotational change (at minimum) in just a one-hour session. She recently came to the conclusion that committing to doing this type of exercise was the absolute best thing she could do for her scoliosis, so she decided to become an instructor. She starts in a few months and I can only fathom what kind of transformations her back will go through during the rigorous training.
So, as complicated as it may sound, those are my opinions on back bracing. If you come to the conclusion that you indeed need a back brace, then I urge you to travel to a Schroth practitioner (which may be in another state or country) to get the brace fitted and to get routine check-ups. The wrong back brace (one that is ill-fitting) combined with an emotionally unstable teenager could end up doing more harm than good for scoli. You HAVE to do your research and do some soul searching to see if bracing is right for you and your scoliosis. Check with sources you trust and take your time with the decision.
After all, you are ultimately responsible for your own health. And you’re worth it!