When it comes to treating scoliosis, you shouldn’t just be trying to find the cheapest option – it’s critical to consider the likely outcome of treatment over the long term, and to remember that in many cases the cost of treatment will be spread out over many years. Quality treatment is always going to be more expensive, and the sad fact is that “cheap” treatment may not have any positive impact at all. This being said, it’s also only right that you do consider cost as part of your treatment selection process. Let’s look at some of the considerations to keep in mind when choosing between exercise-based, or bracing based treatment.
Scoliosis bracing is the most effective way to treat Scoliosis, in terms of Cobb angle, without undergoing surgery. Bracing has the best chance of any treatment to not only stop the development of scoliosis but also to reverse the condition. Bracing is typically recommended for curves between about 30 and 60 degrees, but certainly can be used to treat smaller curves.
Scoliosis braces (at least ones worthy of the name) are custom made for the wearer and are expensive – the average brace will cost anywhere between 3000 and 4000 Uk Pounds. Some braces, such as the ScoliBrace we offer at the UK Scoliosis Clinic are adjustable within a certain degree, meaning you can get more life out of the brace.
While bracing does come with a high upfront cost it should be kept in mind that a brace will, in the vast majority of cases, last for many years. In adolescents with larger curves, more than one brace may be needed, since eventually, the scoliosis could improve to a point where a new brace would need to be fitted in order to keep up the reduction, but in many cases an adjustable brace such as ScoliBrace can cover an entire course of treatment. In younger children requiring bracing either to correct scoliosis or prevent a relapse multiple braces will be needed, but this will still be spread out over 10-15 years. On the other hand, when buying a brace as an adult, you can (assuming you do not go through significant weight loss or gain) essentially consider it as a lifetime investment.
Bracing also has the benefit of incurring next to no ongoing costs – it’s advisable to have check-up appointments at scheduled intervals, but other than this the treatment is paid for.
In real terms then, the cost of bracing in those not having reached skeletal maturity should be considered as between £1000 and £2000 per year. For those buying a brace as an adult, the cost would be considerably less when annualised.
Scoliosis specific exercise approaches are often offered alongside bracing as additional support but are mostly used to treat smaller scoliotic curves, at or below 20 degrees. There are essentially two ways to approach this – either through a “Bootcamp” style intensive course, which seeks to teach the patient how to establish and maintain an exercise program or through regularly scheduled appointments over the period of treatment.
Bootcamp style classes can be an attractive prospect – lasting only a few weeks to a month, however, they do not address the need for scoliosis specific exercises to be constantly evaluated and adjusted to keep the correction going. For those looking simply to prevent a small scoliotic curve getting worse, a Bootcamp may work well – but for longer-term treatment, regular appointments with a therapist are usually preferable.
A critical factor to consider with exercise-based approaches is the ability of the patient to perform the exercises correctly – either SEAS or Schroth exercises are not easy, and require physical strength, this means this many younger children may struggle to perform the techniques correctly, even if their compliance with the schedule is 100%.
Scoliosis specific exercise boot camps can cost anywhere from £2000-£5000, depending on the location and whether accommodation is included. Individual sessions range from £50 to £100 per session, based on 1 session per month this comes out to roughly £600 – £1200 per year, plus ongoing travel costs.
As you can see, in real terms, the annualised cost of bracing compares favourably with a Bootcamp style approach and bracing is likely to be only slightly more expensive than a session-based approach to treatment. Taking a Bootcamp type introduction to scoliosis specific exercise, and then following up with periodic appointments with a specialist to review will probably cost more than bracing.
Which should I choose?
Although the figures above represent rough guides (the cost of any treatment will always be individualised and could be more or less than this) it’s hopefully clear to see that there is not likely to be a huge difference in cost when considered over a period of years.
The main factor to consider should, therefore, be the most appropriate treatment for your case. Certain situations are easy to determine – very large curves in young people require bracing in order to have a chance of avoiding surgery, Small curves in adults with a stable spine, without any pain can be easily managed with an exercise approach and curves of say, 45 degrees in young people require bracing for the fastest possible reduction before skeletal maturity is reached and the spine is too ridged to correct.
Often, convenience is more of consideration – for example, the parents of a young teen with a small curve may consider wearing a brace part-time a better investment than paying for ongoing exercise therapy, given that it’s much more effort to comply with an exercise prescription and almost no effort at all to put on a brace. Similarly, an older person might prefer to treat a smaller scoliotic curve which is not too bothersome with the session-based exercise approach, since raising a large amount of cash up-front for the purchase of a brace may not be justifiable.
Unfortunately, there is no easy answer as to which treatment ends up being the cheapest since treatment for scoliosis is always as individual as the patient, but in many cases, you will find that the real terms cost between the two isn’t that great.