Back braces: Frequently asked questions

Photo of a couple outdoors

Orthopedic back braces can help prevent scoliosis from getting worse. Although it might take a bit of getting used to, various things can make it easier to wear one.

Having to wear a back brace might sound quite off-putting to start with. You will probably need some time to adjust mentally and physically. That's completely normal. But with a little practice, you’ll soon learn how to put the brace on and take it off properly, and get used to wearing it all day.

I have a prescription for a brace. What do I do now?

Braces have to be customized to the shape of the wearer’s spine so that they fit well and put pressure on the right parts of the spine. So it’s important to find an orthopedist who has expertise in scoliosis treatment and an orthopedic technologist with experience in making braces. The staff at the practice or orthotics shop will also show you how to put the brace on properly. Support groups can help you find an orthopedic practice or brace maker.

Illustration: Back braces are customized to the wearer’s body

How many hours per day do I need to wear the brace?

Your doctor will make a recommendation based on how severe your scoliosis is and when your bones are likely to stop growing.

A lot of doctors recommend wearing the brace for around 18 hours per day. That means you’ll usually have to wear it at night too. According to research, the absolute minimum should be 13 hours per day.

How long will I need the brace?

You wear the brace until your bones stop growing. Girls’ bones have usually fully matured around two years after their first period. A person’s current stage of bone growth (their skeletal maturity) can be measured by taking an x-ray of their pelvic bone or left hand.

So the answer to this question will partly depend on how old you are when the scoliosis starts. Most teenagers who have to wear a back brace wear it for about two years or a few more.

What can I do to stop the brace hurting or rubbing?

To help straighten the spine, orthopedic braces have to fit tightly and place pressure on certain areas. This sometimes leads to irritated skin, rubbing and soreness. The best way to stop these problems is to wear a special seamless top underneath the brace. It is important to make sure there are no folds in the fabric at the points where the brace is tight-fitting.

You can also use creams or lotions to prevent rubbing. Some teenagers find products for pressure ulcers helpful. If you develop skin problems, like a rash, you can ask your family doctor or a dermatologist for advice.

When you first get your brace, it’s a good idea to wear it for just a few hours per day at first and then gradually start wearing it for longer each day.

What clothes should I wear?

Wearing a back brace is nothing to be ashamed of. But some teenagers prefer to hide it under their clothes. Long, loose tops often cover it up well.

In summer, it can get quite hot under the brace because it’s made of plastic and air can’t get through. If you’re out and about in the hot weather, it’s a good idea to pack a couple of seamless tops to go underneath the brace so you can change if you sweat a lot.

Can I do sports?

Yes! Sport is a great idea because it improves your general fitness and wellbeing – and because regular exercise strengthens your back muscles too.

There are some sports you can do with your brace on but it’s often easier to take it off.

You can usually play whatever sport you like, as long as it doesn’t cause any pain or other problems. If you’re unsure, you might want to ask your doctor whether there are any reasons not to play a specific sport.

How do I clean my brace?

It’s a good idea to clean your brace at least once a week because you’ll be wearing it a lot and it will get sweaty. In particular, dirt can collect around the pads on the inside.

Orthopedic braces are made of hard-wearing plastic and are easy to clean. You can just wipe them with a cotton pad or cloth soaked in rubbing alcohol (isopropanol). A lot of teenagers wash their brace (including the pads on the inside) in the shower. They use shower gel and leave the brace to dry naturally afterward.

What can I do if I'm fed up with the brace?

A brace can be quite annoying. It fits very tightly, so it may sometimes disturb your sleep, give you stomach ache after a meal and turn simple things (like doing up your shoes) into a challenge. Sometimes you just feel "trapped" in it. It is totally normal to get fed up with wearing a back brace.

A lot of teenagers find it helpful to

  • talk to someone about it: Other teenagers who wear a brace tend to understand the problems better and you can help each other stick it out.
  • reward themselves: Giving yourself the occasional reward for wearing your brace can have a motivating effect. It might help to keep a note of when you wear the brace and for how long so you know how you’re doing.
  • stay positive: This is especially important when things get tough. It is also useful to remind yourself why you’re wearing the brace and that it won’t be forever.

One way to get in touch with other teenagers who have scoliosis is to join a support group near you or online.

Should I tell anyone about the brace and, if so, how?

Some people try not to think about their brace and avoid making a big thing out of it, preferring to keep it hidden instead. Others like to be open about it. The good thing about being open is that

  • hiding the brace from others is tiring, and it's pretty much impossible to hide it anyway.
  • explaining things and then forgetting about it can be quite a relief.
  • if other people know about your brace, you can ask them for help and expect them to be understanding.
  • you can clear up any misconceptions or myths straight away.

Often, a simple explanation is enough. Something like: “It’s a back brace. I have to wear it because my spine’s a bit crooked” or “It’s to straighten my spine. Kind of like dental braces but for your back.”

Another idea is to give a presentation at school. You can explain what scoliosis is and how it’s treated.

The important thing is not to worry too much about what other people think. Most of them will get used to the brace after a while, just like you have. At some point it will just be a normal part of everyday life.

Die KorsiSisters. BACKBRACE FAQ - Korsett im Alltag? [YouTube video]. December 5, 2015.

Negrini S, Minozzi S, Bettany-Saltikov J, Chockalingam N, Grivas TB, Kotwicki T et al. Braces for idiopathic scoliosis in adolescents. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2015; (6): CD006850.

IQWiG health information is written with the aim of helping people understand the advantages and disadvantages of the main treatment options and health care services.

Because IQWiG is a German institute, some of the information provided here is specific to the German health care system. The suitability of any of the described options in an individual case can be determined by talking to a doctor. can provide support for talks with doctors and other medical professionals, but cannot replace them. We do not offer individual consultations.

Our information is based on the results of good-quality studies. It is written by a team of health care professionals, scientists and editors, and reviewed by external experts. You can find a detailed description of how our health information is produced and updated in our methods.

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Created on May 10, 2022

Next planned update: 2025


Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG, Germany)

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