Brace Treatment vs. Surgery: Which is Best?

Looking for a natural treatment plan? We’re diving into why a brace treatment is better than surgery and how you can find relief.

Are you dealing with the painful side effects of scoliosis? Are you considering a major surgery to help reduce the pain?
Believe it or not, there are actually many alternatives when it comes to pain management for back pain. One popular and effective method for pain reductions is brace treatment

Want to learn more? We put together a guide to understanding the differences between an invasive surgery and brace treatment to help you make an educated decision about which treatment is right for you.

Check out this handy guide!

Understanding Scoliosis

Before you can compare surgery with brace treatment for a medical problem, you need to understand what it is exactly you are treating.

Scoliosis is a condition that affects over three million people every year. Scoliosis is a deformity of the spine that typically happens when the spine is bent or curved abnormally.

The unnatural curving of the space can lead to intense back pain, poor stature, trouble walking, or a very visible deformity.

There are several types of scoliosis:

  • Idiopathic scoliosis – Scoliosis that forms without any known or plausible cause.
  • Degenerative scoliosis – Scoliosis that forms from the degeneration of the bones and disks, whether from age or a pre-existing disease.
  • Infantile scoliosis – Scoliosis that develops in babies from birth to around three years old.
  • Juvenile scoliosis – Scoliosis that develops in children between four and nine years.
  • Adolescent scoliosis – Scoliosis that develops in youths between ten and eighteen years old.

Adolescent scoliosis is the most common type of idiopathic scoliosis cases, taking up nearly 80% of all cases.

To treat intense scoliosis, doctors may use brace treatment, surgery, or pain medication.

The Pros and Cons of Brace Treatment

Now that we have a better understanding of what scoliosis is, let’s look at why brace treatment is better than surgery.
Brace treatment is a type of treatment for scoliosis that prevents the curve of the spine from progressing.

Brace treatment, also known as orthotic treatment, can reduce pain while also preventing visible deformities of the back.

This treatment prevents the curve from progressing, so it is typically prescribed when the spine is beginning to look a little extreme.

Brace treatment is usually prescribed to children. With consistent use of a brace through the child’s development, scoliosis can be permanently corrected.

However, without consistent use until the end of the child’s skeletal growth, even if the back appears straighter, the spine may go back to its original curve.

There are two types of braces that are usually used:

  • CTLSO – Cervical Thoracic Lumbar Sacral Orthosis is a type of brace that uses a custom pelvic girdle and a metal extending structure to treat curving in the upper back. For people with kyphosis (the “hunchback” appearance from scoliosis) this brace treatment could very well result in correction of the spine.
  • TLSO – Thoracic Lumbar Sacral Orthosis is a brace that uses a trunk and custom pelvic girdle to treat curving in the lower and middle back. No metal structure is used in this brace and it is significantly easier to hide underneath clothing than CTLSO.

The Pros

  1. For idiopathic scoliosis, brace treatment is considered a very effective method for preventing curves from getting worse.
  2. Immediate control of curving– a significant visual correction can be seen when first putting on the brace.
  3. You can do just about everything with a brace on– from bike riding to running.
  4. Braces can be removed temporarily for other physical activities such as horseback riding, skiing, dancing, and gymnastics, but must be put back on immediately afterward.
  5. Pain relief is often immediate.
  6. There is no “recovery” time for brace treatment and wearing the brace is not painful.

The Cons

  1. Braces typically will not be effective in treating spine curving that exceeds 45 degrees.
  2. Braces, while effective, are often uncomfortable.
  3. For children, they may experience bullying due to the back braces’ inability to be easily hidden.
  4. Brace treatment for children must be used for a long time until the child’s skeleton is finished growing.
  5. Brace treatment that is discontinued before the skeleton stops growing could lead to a returned curvature of the spine.
  6. Some patients experience skin irritation and discomfort when using a brace.

The Pros and Cons of Surgery

Brace treatment seems pretty effective, right? So why do people opt for surgery?

There are several types of spinal surgery that is used to permanently “fix” the curving of the spine, although surgery will not make the spine completely straight. One common form of surgery is a spinal fusion.

A spinal fusion involves permanently fusing two vertebrae in the back together so that they will grow at the joint and form a single bone that doesn’t move.

Rods, screws, and other metal material will be surgically implanted in the spice to make this happen.
Growing systems are another type of surgery typically used in children with scoliosis. Rods are attached to the spine to maintain the spine’s curve as the child’s skeleton grows.

The surgery must be performed every six to twelve months to add the correct sized rods. One the child is nearing maturity, they typically are given a spinal fusion as a final surgery.

The Pros

  1. Can be implemented as a treatment for scoliosis spine curvature over 45 degrees.
  2. Can effectively stop the progression of the curve and maintain trunk balance.

The Cons

  1. Will not make the spine 100% straight.
  2. Reduced mobility in the fused bones– could lead to an inability to twist or bend properly.
  3. Long recovery time.
  4. The delicate nature of spinal surgery (working around the spinal cord) makes it very dangerous and depending on the type of surgery can be very risky.
  5. Pain during recovery that may lead to painkiller addiction.
  6. Spinal surgeries are significantly more expensive that purchasing a brace.
  7. Spinal fusions done on children that are too young could lead to poor lung development and trunk deformations, such as have limbs that are significantly shorter than the child’s torso.
  8. Not guaranteed to reduce back pain.

Treat Your Pain The Right Way

Was our guide to choosing between brace treatment and surgery helpful? We’d love to hear from you !!!

Roger Safont

Roger Safont - Technology Evangelist, Internet & Digital Marketer, Healthcare Technology Leader

Roger SafontBrace Treatment vs. Surgery: Which is Best?