Idiopathic scoliosis affects some 2% to 3% of adolescents, with the diagnosis usually made during puberty and progressing until skeletal maturity. The condition impairs patients’ quality of life, causing pain, limiting their activity, and reducing self-esteem. Spine braces in current use to treat the condition consist of a rigid plastic design that encompass the wearer’s trunk and apply pressure on the spine’s abnormal curve. These braces have a variety of shortcomings, including restrictions on body movement that discourage consistent use. But a more flexible brace design is now in prototype development that may address some of these limitations and offer an improved therapeutic option.
The new dynamic spine brace is a collaborative undertaking by researchers from the Schools of Engineering at Columbia and Bucknell Universities and the Columbia University Medical Center. The work is supported by a grant from the National Robotics Initiative of the National Science Foundation. The team’s current prototype employs sensors and servomotors that permit the brace to move with the user while still applying corrective force. The latest NSF grant will permit further refinement of the technology with the objective of transforming treatment of this debilitating condition.
Read a news story about the developmental work here.