Background: Orthoses are external aids that are often used to treat pain and diseases affecting the spine, such as lumbago, whiplash, and disc herniation. In this review, we assess the effectiveness and complications of orthotic treatment for typical spinal conditions and after spinal surgery. The orthotic treatment of fractures and postural abnormalities are beyond the scope of this article.
Method: This review is based on a selective search in the Medline database with consideration of controlled trials, systematic reviews, and the recommendations of the relevant medical societies.
Results: Three relevant systematic reviews and four controlled trials were found. Very few controlled trials to date have studied the efficacy of orthotic treatment compared to other conservative treatments and surgery. No definitive evidence was found to support the use of orthoses after surgery, in lumbar radiculopathy, or after whiplash injuries of the cervical spine. In a single trial, short-term immobilization was an effective treatment of cervical radiculopathy. Orthoses are not recommended for nonspecific low back pain. The potential complications of cervical orthoses include pressure-related skin injuries and dysphagia.
Conclusion: No definitive evidence as yet supports the use of orthoses after spinal interventions or in painful conditions of the cervical or lumbar spine. They should, therefore, be used only after individual consideration of the indications in each case.