The Evolution Of The Modern Back Brace

The evolution of the modern back brace was made possible through technological advancements. As technology advanced, so did back bracing for juvenile and adolescence spinal deformities. 

In 2013, the New England Journal of Medicine published a study conducted on back bracing. The study tracked 242 patients, who were braced and unbraced, and found that bracing had a 72% success rate at avoiding surgery. 

Luckily, and thanks to technology, back bracing has seen a radical improvement over the years. And the evolution of modern bracing has significantly enhanced the quality of life for patients who need the treatment. 

“If you would understand anything, observe its beginning and its development.”—Aristotle

What is a Back Brace? 

A back brace is a device designed to control the spine’s movement in some cases and be a preventative measure against some spinal conditions progressing.  

A spinal brace (also referred to as an orthotic or orthosis) can accomplish several treatment goals. It can limit motion, stabilise weak or injured spinal structures, and prevent the progression of a spinal deformity. 

How Does Back Bracing Work?  

Bracing treatment aims to apply corrective forces to the spine that release load on the inner (concave) part of the curve, and increase load on the outer (convex) part of the curve. The idea behind this is that the bone experiencing compression will grow less, while the bone experiencing distraction (less or no compression) may grow more. 

Back bracing might be a treatment option for a spinal deformity like Scoliosis; a condition that causes an abnormal curve in your spine. Back braces are designed to slow down, or stop the progression, and correct the spinal curvature and deformity caused by Scoliosis.  

Rigid braces put pressure on your spine in several places, that helps to prevent it from curving more than it already has. Braces slow the curve progression by retraining your body into maintaining a corrective posture.

Back bracing is used to slow the progression, often removing the need for surgery. Modern back braces are more efficient, more comfortable, easier to fit, and less noticeable under clothing.

The History of Back Braces

Ambrose Paré developed the first supportive back brace to treat spinal deformity, 1510 – 1590. He was a French army surgeon considered to be one of the “fathers” of modern surgery.  

In the 1940s, the Milwaukee brace was developed – the first cervico-thoraco-lumbo-sacral orthosis (CTLSO). The Milwaukee brace is symmetrical, with a harness-like hip area and metal strips rising to the chin, where a collar, or neck ring, is held in place. This was a very common back brace early in the twentieth century. 

While the brace may have been innovative at the time, it was bulky, had metal bars up the neck, was uncomfortable, and was way too visible. The disadvantage of the Milwaukee brace was poor compliance from patients not wanting to wear the brace, which resulted in poor outcomes. 

By the 1970s and ’80s, new back brace options became available. 

A New Age of Technology With 3D Scanning & Bracing 

Gone are the days of plastering! Plastering is a moulding technique that has been around for ages and is a messy and an uncomfortable experience for the patient.

Today, Orthotists can use state-of-the-art equipment like 3D scanning and the latest imaging and impression technology. It provides real-time images of the exact contours and profiles of the body. It is quick and doesn’t use radiation or harmful energy beams.

The data gathered from the scan is used to custom design a modern back brace that:

  • will apply the exact amount of force needed to rectify and gain the desired results
  • gives the patient an optimum fit
  • leaves minimal margin for error
  • saves the patient time and money with fewer visits for adjustments
  • can be replicated or modified infinitely and stored indefinitely for future reference
  • is less visible and offers more freedom of movement 

Successful outcomes from back bracing rely on two main factors; the brace design and the monitoring & adjustment. The actual compliance is monitored and recorded using a “Thermal-button,” which is a device calibrated and embedded into the brace. This device records temperature over time, with the data downloaded at follow-up appointments in order to monitor compliance. 

A more patient-friendly back brace boosts the compliance of wearing it as per the prescribed times, giving a better treatment outcome.  

A certified Orthotist specialises in the design and fitting of back braces and will determine the right type and fit of back brace for your treatment.