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Milwaukee Brace FAQ

I’ve spent many years of my life in the Milwaukee brace. Here’s what I would say if anyone were to ask me questions about it.

What is the Milwaukee brace?

The Milwaukee brace is an orthopedic appliance used to stop the progression of Scoliosis and Kyphosis. It consists of a tough ridged, polyethylene girdle. Attached to the girdle are three adjustable upright bars. Usually, a wide one at the front and two thinner one’s at the back. The length of the bars can be adjusted using a screwdriver. The bars rise always up the body and are attached to a metal collar at the top of the brace. The collar has a chin piece and head supports. The whole brace opens up at the back. The collar being clamped locked by a thumb bolt. The Girdle being tightened up with leather straps.

How long does one have to wear the brace for?

The brace must be worn faithfully for 23 hours a day, 365 days a year until the patent stops growing or longer.

How do I get put on?

Usually, a trained guardian, nurse or care worker puts on the brace. As the brace opens up at the back, it is awkward for the patent to put on and remove without assistance. This person(s) will also usually be the “Policeman” of the brace, making sure that the patient wears it full time and complies with it.

How does one usually feel when told they are going to have to wear the brace?

Usually, a feeling of shock and horror! Usually one has seen others in the Milwaukee Brace when at the clinic. One always hopes that one’s back does not get worse and he or she will be able to escape the device. The reality of Scoliosis however, is that it does get worse and inevitably, if the Milwaukee brace is common in your clinic, you stand a very good chance of ending up in one.

How is the brace made and how long does it take?

The Milwaukee brace is made especially for each patient. A plaster cast of the patient is first made. The brace is then made around the cast. The brace usually takes two to three weeks to make but it can vary.

What should the patient do whilst waiting for the brace to be made?

Enjoy your freedom. Those weeks will pass very quickly as time out of the brace now seems like a luxury. The dreaded day will come far too soon!

What should you expect when you finally go for the brace fitting?

Nothing will prepare you for that dreaded feeling upon seeing your new Milwaukee brace for the first time. Your time has come. Your freedom to move freely has finally ended. The brace is cumbersome, unsightly and what’s worst, anyone and everyone is going to know you are wearing it. And there’s no getting away from that fact.

What does it feel like when you are in your new Milwaukee Brace for the first time?

Very different to what you expect it to feel like. The sheer awkwardness of the brace hits you like a ton of bricks. The girdle is tightened up very firmly and feels very tight wrapped around your waist. The middle of the girdle sits on the hips and holds you in very rigidly. The top and bottom edges of the girdle can sometimes feel very sharp. Your body is held in a very straight and rigid position and there is no room to move it about. You are very aware of the metal collar holding your head up in a very constraining way, stretching the spine. It is the most natural thing in the world is to want to move your head and want to look down. Your new Milwaukee won’t let you. It will ensure that you look at the roof instead.

So you are now leaving the fitting room in your new Milwaukee. What next?

The Milwaukee brace makes you very aware of it. Being stretched into a new position without being able to move about freely takes a hell of a lot of getting used to. You will tire of being in this position very quickly but your care worker or guardian will not let you out of the brace. Being strapped up in a polyethylene girdle will make your waist sweat to the point of saturation. Your tee shirt under the girdle will become soaked. This girdle will rub your hips sore and will stick into your legs when you try to raise them. The chin pad will rub your chin and make it sore and red. On the whole, the brace is very, very uncomfortable.

The things you used to take for granted will become much harder. Everything you do, the brace will make it difficult for you, Even reading a book becomes stressful because you can’t move your head and your eyeballs have to do all the work, hence they become very tired! When you go outside it gets very intimidating and annoying that wherever you go, everyone, and I mean everyone, will stare at you. Some will ask you about your brace. Some will laugh and make fun at your predicament.

Do you ever get used to the brace?

Yes, as time goes on, some things do become easier. But the jealousy of wanting to be free of the restraint the Milwaukee imposes never goes away.

Do you get frustrated?

Yes. Especially when you think your care worker is flaunting freely in front of you and that you think she is an unfeeling, demanding, wicked bitch for not letting you out of it. When you have been out of the brace for an hour, you can’t help feeling some hatred for the bitch that is going to put you back in it.

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8 Responses to Milwaukee Brace FAQ

  1. Daphne says:

    I wore the Milwaukee when I was a teenager. I am now 41 years old and still remember the emotional trauma and turmoil. I never had to deal with inconsiderate peers or abuse, but I was still suicidal with the appearance and discomfort. Today, I would love to eradicate the use of this terrible contraption.

    I had corrective surgery 2.5 years ago and am doing phenomenally and I work in a physically grueling job. I believe the use of this brace is unfounded and the evidence does not support the benefits. My spine changed curves and degrees substantially even after skeletal maturity, therefore, I feel the brace was a complete waste of time. Personally, I would walk across broken glass to keep my child from enduring this ordeal. My spine at diagnosis was an S curve with a rt thoracic and lower left compensating. Years later, by the time I was looking at surgery, my curve was just a right thoracic, 44 degree, with no lower left compensating curve. You cannot tell me one single benefit that brace did for me. NO child should be in it. If the curve is that great, have the surgery. At a young age, the spine is still pliable and the surgeon has a great capacity for straightening. One heals better as a youngster and arthritis has not yet set in. At 38 years old, my surgeon hoped for a 44 degree curve to be reduced to a 15-20. What we were able to get was down to a 5. I am a flight attendant and am on my feet all the time. After being off work for 8 months to recover, my first layover in London had me running the legs off the rest of the crew sightseeing. I held out longer than any of them. I now travel the world again, walk around the Taj Mahal, and other incredible sites, and I will never regret having this surgery. I will ALWAYS regret not fighting the Milwaukee stronger. It’s worthless. Any doctor that uses it is a barbarian who needs to be brought into modern medicine.

  2. Elisabeth says:

    @Daphne: Thank you for your input. Probably in most cases there is no real benefit wearing the brace and the trauma of wearing it would grossly outweigh any benefits.

    I was diagnosed with roto-scoliosis as a teenager. Also with lordosis. I was never officially diagnosed with kyphosis but maybe should have. I had one near-sighted friend who was too proud to wear glasses. She would recognise me from my body posture – I was always leaning forward while walking.
    I never had surgery on my spine but I see a chiropractor regularly now, every two weeks. It made a huge difference in my posture. My scoliosis isn’t as bad as before. Where I am from in Europe, exercise and swimming was always recommended for scoliosis, back brace never seemed a good option unless the scoliosis would be very extreme that it would interfere with breathing.

  3. keith lovett says:

    Yes I agree the milwaukee brace was proberly the worst thing I have had to wear. I wore one of these from 1956 to 1965 and it was the old type with hardened leater girdle and massive chin and occiputal pads.

    The bars stuck out so there was no disguising them. It seems in those days the more distraction the better it was apparently. The first time I was fitted I will never forget that hard leather girdle it was adjusted so tight they kept telling me to breath in and hold while they continued tightening it, not satisfied until I could hardly breath. The brace was very heavy as the leather was thick and the addition of all the steel work added to this. It was first adjusted so the chin pad was just causing a small amount of pressure and the neck ring adjusted to allow some degree of head movement, I could actually lift my chin off the chin pad and look left and right. This wasn’t to last after one month I had to go back for my assessment and I was told the brace would now be fully adjusted as this last month was time given to get used to it. I had been wearing it 4 hours a day increasing the time throughout this month with protests to my parents, but to no avail as by the time this month was up I was in it 20 hours a day.
    I had the usual X-rays etc and the doc talked in private with my parents as they did in those days.
    The next I knew my mother was telling me we have to wait in this room for the man who is going to adjust my brace.

    When this finally started to happen the man asked me how high can I stand up straight and how high can I stretch my neck. I thought this was to see how much movement I had as he was writing something on a baord. So I stood up as straight as i could and I stretched my neck as high as I possibly could well off the chin pad. The man said this was fine and started loosening screws on the brace uprights. He said can you stretch as highe as you did before and onl the position. I did this until my neck was craned so high I was looking uo at the top of the wall.
    While I was holding this position, as quick as a flash up went the uprights with the chin pad tight under my chin. You can relax now he said. No I couldn;t I was permntly held in this posture. To make matters worse the neck ring was adjusted so my head was tightly sandwiched between the chin and occiput pads and I couldn’t move my head at all.

    He said to my parents this is how it must be all the time and it was now 23 hours a day.

    My next shock was trying to sit as this pushed the chin pad up even harder and I only prefered high upright chairs then.

    Thank goodness they have inproved on this torture divice, but to late for me and many others I am sure who lost most of their childhood days confined to the restrictions this brace imposed

  4. Daphne says:

    Keith, i just cringe to think of the contraption you had to deal with. I have spoken to many medical professionals about my back surgery and the bracing in the past and most have offered up replies about how ineffective the brace is, that it is not worth the emotional trauma for the patient. Another angle I believe should be covered by anyone who is considering this device….see if your prescribing doctor gets any kickback or profit off the laboratory that manufactures them.

  5. otis says:

    to answer the kickback question there is no shareable profit involved with this brace,secondly the American orthotic and prosthetic association boards of certification would not allow kickbacks of any sort whatsoever ,that behavior is considered contrary to the the integrity of the national boards and could cause anyone caught doing that sort of thing to loose their certification and be disallowed to practice their profession as well as having to pay a hefty fine

    i finally

  6. WayneWheeler says:

    @otis: Graft and corruption exists everywhere and watchdogs sometimes look the other way. As a former orthotist I can tell you that kickbacks do happen, and no one wants to hire a whistle blower. The ABC code of ethics only applies IF YOU ARE CAUGHT, and only provide a guideline for the discipline of offenders.

  7. Vert Ebraces says:

    I want very much to wear one. I never wore one as a teen, but was attracted to it even back then. Now, middle aged, I very much want to obtain a brace and know what it is like to be confined to being in one, for a reasonable period of time. I was born male, but I would love to wear it as a “female”…….

  8. Dear Milwaukee Users….. we custom design all types of Back Braces for Scoliosis, especially Milwaukee Brace, if interested please contact to avail the service. we are available online “My Care Prosthetics and Orthotics Medical Center”.

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