Nonsurgical Treatments for Scoliosis in Children

Scoliosis experts at Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital at NYU Langone offer nonsurgical treatment with back braces and physical therapy for children and adolescents with mild spinal curvature (10 to 20 degrees) or moderate curvature (20 to 40 degrees). Our doctors may recommend using X-rays that have the least amount of radiation possible to monitor your child’s progress and to determine the effectiveness of these therapies.

Back Braces

Our orthopedic specialists may use plastic molded braces or back braces with soft straps, which cover the upper or middle portions of the back, to treat children with mild to moderate scoliosis. This treatment is highly effective if it begins when a child still has significant growth remaining. Our doctors can determine how much growth remains with a bone age study, in which X-rays are taken of the wrists, hands, and top of the pelvis.

To get the best result, braces should be worn until a child’s spine has stopped growing, which usually happens by the time a child reaches puberty. Some braces must be worn under your child’s clothing for at least 18 hours a day, whereas others need to be worn only overnight. Our orthopedic experts work with you and your child to select a brace that is comfortable and effective.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy is vitally important for children and teens with scoliosis. Physical therapy is used to strengthen the core muscles that reinforce posture, in order to increase flexibility and range of motion and to reduce pain. Improving posture can also have a profound impact on a teen’s appearance and self-image.

Our physical therapists can work with you and your child to develop a comprehensive physical therapy program. This includes stretching, strengthening, and a series of specialized breathing exercises called the Schroth method, which is a personalized exercise regimen designed to expand the lungs when the spinal curve makes it difficult to take a deep breath. Children with mild scoliosis should perform these exercises every day at home until their spine stops growing.

For children with pronounced curvature who require more aggressive therapy, our doctors may recommend physical therapy two to three times per week for up to six weeks at NYU Langone’s Rusk Rehabilitation, in addition to exercises to be done at home.

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