Doctor wears scoliosis brace to better understand patients

LONE TREE, Colo. - Dr. Jaren Riley knows his young patients are nervous when he prescribes a back brace for scoliosis, but now he can talk to them about the experience.

The pediatric orthopedic surgeon at Rocky Mountain Hospital for children wore a back brace 18 hours a day for a week.

“I felt like I had good scientific reasons for them to wear the brace, but I didn’t have good answers for them as far as- What does it feel like? What’s it like getting used to it? How do I dress? How do I sleep?   And so I needed more experience to be able to answer those questions,” Dr. Riley said.

While wearing the brace, he says it was not painful, but it was confining.

“What it feels like is that I’m that tube of toothpaste with that last little bit of toothpaste in it, and you are just trying to squeeze me from bottom to top,” Dr. Riley said.

About one in 100 kids have scoliosis of some level.  If the curve in their spine is 25 to 40 degrees, they are a candidate for a brace.  The brace can potentially reduce the need for surgery by 50 percent.  But it can mean some changes for patients.

Aracely Talamantes’s son Andrew has scoliosis.  She says patient families really appreciate Dr. Riley’s efforts.  “It makes them know that he really does care,” she said.