New Study Backs Bracing For Treating Scoliosis

Posted on June 17th, 2014 by Belinda Andrews

The 28th of June is earmarked as “International Scoliosis Awareness Day”.  It’s an important initiative and great opportunity to educate Australians, and the rest of the world, about one of the least understood spinal development conditions, Scoliosis.

As we all know, Scoliosis is commonly detected during adolescence and can cause spinal deformity, posture imbalance, and in severe cases it can affect the function of the heart and lungs. Various evidenced treatment options have been shown to be effective depending on the stage and severity of the scoliosis curve – options include special scoliosis exercise therapies, rigid or dynamic bracing, and in advanced stages, surgery.

Bracing has been used as an early intervention treatment for scoliosis for decades, with many studies in adolescent idiopathic scoliosis (AIS) indicating that bracing may decrease the risk of a curve progressing to needing surgery. Until recently though, results have been inconsistent or provided insufficient evidence.

Now any doubts around scoliosis bracing have largely been put to rest by a study published late last year in The New England Journal of Medicine (17 October 2013). With the aim of determining whether wearing scoliosis braces would prevent the need for spinal surgery in children with AIS, the study was cut short by the ethics review board when early results showed overwhelmingly in favour of bracing.

The study demonstrated that when specialised scoliosis bracing is prescribed for high-risk patients, the need for surgery can be prevented in most cases. The researchers also found that the longer the brace was worn each day, the better the outcome was – a success rate of up to 93%! To date there are no other treatment options that have shown to be as effective as bracing in preventing surgery in these cases.

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, around 300 cases of scoliosis each year are serious enough to require surgery in Australia. Spinal fusion is the most common approach to scoliosis surgery, and while this generally leads to a straightening of the curved spine, it often leaves the patient with long-term stiffness, issues with movement, and sometimes the need to undergo revision surgeries. It also can be very traumatic on the young patient and their families leading up to the surgery and coping with the recovery.

The key to avoiding scoliosis surgery is getting the right treatment at the right time – early detection and appropriate treatment is key. As Scoliosis screening is no longer compulsory in schools, and very few community organisations having the tools and resources to conduct screenings, it is essential that we all keep an eye out for early signs of scoliosis and make sure they are getting the right type of treatment.

ScoliCare Australia offers free scoliosis screening kits to clinics and information resources to schools to assist with this. Contact 1300 883 884 or to arrange a customised kit for your clinic. We also offer a free x-ray review service for Chiropractors who have concerns about their scoliosis patients.

As International Scoliosis Awareness Day approaches, let’s all focus on early detection of this condition and providing the right treatment to all scoliosis patients

 **This article was published in the June 2014 Edition of The Australian Chiropractor**

MORE INFO – Effects of Bracing in Adolescents with Idiopathic Scoliosis – The New England Journal of Medicine

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