By Columbia University
Some six million people in the U.S. suffer from scoliosis, a sideways curvature of the spine. These include approximately 2 to 3 percent of adolescents who are diagnosed each year with idiopathic scoliosis, which is usually identified during puberty and progresses until skeletal maturity. One in 500 children today require treatment using spine braces and 1 in 5,000 need spinal surgery. The typical spine brace is made of rigid plastic that fits around the child’s trunk and hips and applies counter-pressure on the spine’s abnormal curve, on the theory that pressure and support on the curve from outside will stimulate more normal growth of the spine.
The rigid braces have several shortcomings: they “freeze” the child’s upper body and limit movement to such an extent that users often avoid wearing the brace. And as the child grows, the required external forces to correct the abnormal posture change along the length of the curve and over the course of treatment. Having the flexibility to move when wearing a spinal brace while still applying corrective forces would be a very useful feature for both patients and physicians.