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Open Access Highly Accessed Research

Treatment of chronic low back pain in patients with spinal deformities using a sagittal re-alignment brace

Hans-Rudolf Weiss1* and Mario Werkmann2

Author Affiliations

1 Koob-Scolitech, Orthopedic Rehabilitation Services, Huehnerhof 100, D-55568 Abtweiler, Germany

2 Orthomed Orthopedic Technical Services, Bad Sobernheim, Germany

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Scoliosis 2009, 4:7  doi:10.1186/1748-7161-4-7

Published: 9 March 2009

Abstract

Background

For adult scoliosis patients with chronic low back pain bracing is initially indicated before spinal surgery is considered. Until recently there has been a lack of research into the effect upon pain reductions in the mid and long-term. Promising results have been documented in short-term studies for the application of a sagittal re-alignment brace in patients with spinal deformities and along with pain; however mid-term and long-term results are not yet available. The purpose of this study is to investigate the mid-term effects of this brace with respect to pain control.

Materials and methods

67 patients (58 females and 9 males) with chronic low back pain (> 24 months) and the diagnosis of scoliosis or hyperkyphosis were treated with a sagittal re-alignment brace (physio-logic brace™) between January 2006 and July 2007. The indication for this kind of brace treatment was derived from a positive sagittal re-alignment test (SRT) and the exclusion of successful conservative treatment during the last 24 months. The aim of this type of conservative intervention was to avoid surgery for chronic low back pain.

Results

The average pain intensity was measured on the Roland and Morris VRS (5 steps) before treatment. This was 3.3 (t1), at the time of brace adjustment it was 2.7 (t2) and after at an average observation time of 18 months it was 2.0 (t3). The differences were highly significant in the Wilcoxon test.

Discussion

Short-term measurements showed that a significant pain reduction is possible in chronic postural low back pain using a sagittal re-alignment brace inducing lumbar re-lordosation. In a preliminary report at adjustment (t2), highly significant improvements of pain intensity have also been demonstrated. At 6 months of treatment however, no improvement was measured. The improvement of the mid-term effects (18 months) found in this study compared to the preliminary report may be due to the changed approach to compliance: whilst the bracing standard was not changed; the patients in this study were obligated to wear the brace for a minimum of 20 hrs per day for the first 6 months of treatment.

Conclusion

The effect of the sagittal re-alignment brace leads to promising short-term improvements in patients with chronic low back pain and spinal deformities. Contrary to unspecific orthoses, which after a short period without persistent pain reduction are omitted by the patients, the sagittal re-alignment brace (physio-logic™ brace) leads to an effective reduction of pain intensity in mid-term even in patients who have stopped brace treatment after the initial 6 months of treatment. In conservative treatment of chronic low back pain specific approaches such as the sagittal re-alignment brace are indicated prior to considering the surgical options.